Panel of physicians weighs case urgency as hospital system resumes some time-sensitive imaging

A Virginia hospital system is beginning to work through its back log of time-sensitive, medically necessary procedures, and the imaging work that goes along with them. And it’s providing some insights into how leaders are tackling the challenge.

Novant Health UVA Health System announced Monday the resumption of such care at its medical centers in the communities of Manassas and Haymarket. The procedures had been postponed since the pandemic started in March, but Novant is now tasking a panel of physicians with sorting through the backlog and scoring each case’s urgency.

The three-hospital system—which also operates four imaging centers—said ranking cases will ensure its facilities have adequate resources, if there’s a new coronavirus surge in Virginia.

“We are not performing elective surgeries at this time, as we’re still seeing COVID-19 numbers grow in our health district,” Stephen Smith, MD, president and chief operating officer of the system’s Prince William and Haymarket medical centers, said in a statement. “We hope to resume additional services over the next several weeks. However, our top priority remains the safety of our team members and our patients,” he added.

Novant Health UVA said it’s giving precedence to patients who had an appointment before the pandemic. To ease concerns, the institution has added several safety measures—checking patients’ and providers’ temperatures, requiring all to wear masks, bolstering cleaning processes and steering more resources toward infection prevention. Leaders have also limited entrants into the hospital system’s clinics and reduced the use of waiting rooms.

Jo Westerfield, VP of physician network services, said Novant Health UVA is adhering to many of the same protocols at its medical groups. And it’s relying on its physicians to “advise on what procedures are needed and how to deliver them safely.” The system has decided to open a new Respiratory Assessment Center inside of its Bristow, Virginia, urgent care center, which will serve walk-in patients experiencing moderate breathing distress.  

“The Respiratory Assessment Center will offer a full range of respiratory assessment services, including chest x-rays,” Westerfield said in a statement. “This will allow other Novant Health UVA Health System Medical Group offices to limit sick visits and help preserve personal protective equipment,” she added.