The Cough Cold and Fever Clinic: A Model for the Safe Management of Ambulatory Patients With Suspected COVID-19

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Qual Manag Health Care. 2021 Jul 23. doi: 10.1097/QMH.0000000000000334. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: When the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic swept through New York City, hospital systems became quickly overwhelmed and ambulatory strategies were needed. We designed and implemented an innovative program called the Cough Cold and Fever (CCF) Clinic to safely triage, evaluate, treat, and follow up patients with symptoms concerning for COVID-19.

METHODS: The CCF Clinic was launched on March 13, 2020, in the ambulatory internal medicine office of New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medicine. Patients with symptoms suspicious for COVID-19 were first triaged via telemedicine to determine necessity of in-person evaluation. Clinic workspaces and workflows were fashioned to minimize risk of viral transmission and to conserve COVID-19 testing supplies and personal protective equipment. Protocols containing the most recent COVID-19 practice guidelines were created, updated regularly, and communicated through twice-daily huddles and as a shareable online document. Discharged patients were followed up for at least 7 days through telemedicine. Patient outcomes, including admission to the emergency department (ED), hospitalization, and death, were tracked to ensure clinical quality.

RESULTS: We report on the first 620 patients seen at CCF between March 13, 2020, and June 19, 2020. Telemedicine follow-up was achieved for 500 (81%). We tested 347 (56%) patients for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), with 119 (34%) testing positive. Forty-seven (8%) patients were sent to the ED directly from the CCF Clinic and 42 (89%) of these were admitted. Of the patients discharged home from CCF, 15 (3%) were later admitted to a hospital. Twelve (2%) patients in total died.

CONCLUSION: The vast majority of patients, over 90%, seen in CCF were discharged home, with only a small percentage (3%) later requiring admission to a hospital. Of the patients sent directly to the ED from CCF, close to 90% were admitted, verifying the accuracy of our triage. Overall mortality was low (2%), especially when compared with mortality rates in New York City during the pandemic peak. Telemedicine was effective in identifying patients in need of in-person evaluation and in tracking and follow-up. Workflows and protocols were adaptable to reflect rapidly changing resources and clinical guidelines. Frequent communication through a diversity of methods was critical. Through these strategies, we were able to create a safe and effective outpatient program for patients with potential COVID-19.

PMID:34310547 | DOI:10.1097/QMH.0000000000000334