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AHN Announces New Patient Visitation Rules in Response to COVID-19, Flu Season

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Network Also Promotes Video Visits as Viable, Initial Screening Option for Patients with Symptoms of Respiratory Disease  

PITTSBURGH – In response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak in the United States, a growing number of cases being diagnosed in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the concurrent presence of influenza, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) officials today announced new, temporary restrictions on patient visitation at its hospitals in order to protect patients and caregivers.  The new policy will limit the number of visitors for a patient to one at a time in the patient’s hospital room.

AHN is also asking individuals who may be sick themselves, including those experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat, to not visit the hospital unless they are seeking medical treatment, while reminding visitors that the best way to prevent the spread of illness is appropriate hand washing and sanitizing when entering and exiting patient rooms.

“At a time of heightened public health concerns related to both COVID-19 and a particularly severe influenza season, it is critical that we take every step possible to protect our patients and caregivers from the risk of exposure to infectious disease,” said Brian Parker, MD, AHN’s Chief Quality Officer.  “Patient and caregiver safety is our highest priority and we greatly appreciate the support and cooperation of visitors in the efforts we are making to minimize health risks to their loved ones.”   

Dr. Parker said AHN is also discouraging large groups of visitors for individual patients at this time to further promote the safest environment possible across the entire hospital, including waiting rooms, lobbies and other common areas. Digital channels such as FaceTime and Snapchat are being recommended as an options for remotely connecting with loved ones during their stay at the network’s hospitals.

In early February, AHN implemented a comprehensive pandemic response plan to effectively screen and care for patients presenting with symptoms of an infectious respiratory disease and meeting other criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control.  The enhanced screening processes are being carried out at all access points across the health network, including its hospital emergency departments, surgery centers, urgent care clinics, rehabilitation facilities, physician practices and home health services.

AHN is also ramping up its telehealth capabilities to provide patients with timely, convenient access to clinicians from the comfort of their homes through video visits.  Video visits are an option to AHN patients who have signed up for MyChart - a dynamic, one-stop digital platform connected to AHN’s electronic health records system that puts a host of vital health resources at a patient’s fingertips, from access to medical records and test results, to appointment scheduling, medication refilling and a direct links to communicate with physicians. 

“While calling 911 or going to the hospital is always best if you are experiencing a significant health emergency, the CDC and other health authorities are recommending that people who have flu-like symptoms call their doctor first to be screened before going into the office or to the emergency department,” Dr. Parker said.  “We are asking our patients to do the same, or to call the AHN 24/7 Nurse phone line (412-Nurse4U).  We also strongly encourage video visits through MyChart, which may actually be the best option of all.  Through the convenience of a computer, tablet or mobile device, patients are just a few clicks away from a secure, face-to-face connection with an AHN clinician who can discuss their symptoms and concerns, and prescribe the care regimen they need.”

Dr. Parker said patients should always check with their health plan to understand their benefits and access to telehealth services.