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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 2, 202005:10 AM EST

Florida Eye Specialists boosting patient volumes, with new safety measures

Nearly 96% said they were comfortable coming into the office after seeing the precautions.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

After closing to nonemergency procedures and furloughing some staff, Florida Eye Specialists’ eight area offices and surgery centers are open again, with precautions in place.

Dr. Rajesh Shetty, a Florida Eye Specialists CEO and ophthalmologist, said the practice was seeing about two-thirds of its normal volume as of May 29. With help from a Paycheck Protection Program loan, all of its 169 employees and doctors are working again.

The decline in patient volumes can be attributed to measures the office put in place. It is limiting appointments to reduce the number of people in its offices. Waiting rooms are closed and patients are required to wait in their cars for their appointments.

Everyone is required to wear a mask, and employees were tested for COVID-19 before returning to work. 

 Shetty said Florida Eye Specialists surgery centers are participating in a research trial of a high-flow air filter that can reduce viruses and bacteria in the air. It also is using an autoclave, a high-temperature steam system, to sanitize surgical equipment. 

Shetty said the office surveyed its patients, asking how comfortable they would be returning to the office.

About 80% are “comfortable returning to our offices” and 96% were comfortable once they saw the safety protocols.

“As people get more comfortable with this new normal, so to speak, I think we should slowly increase our volumes,” he said.

Before reopening to nonemergency patients, the practice was seeing patients via telemedicine. Shetty said it still is being used in some cases to screen patients or answer questions that do not require a visit. 

“I think there’s still a place for it,” he said. “I’m glad this avenue has opened up for us.”

Seeing patients in the office allows doctors to speak with patients about how they can keep safe by wearing a mask, washing their hands and social distancing. Shetty said the conversations are happening with staff, too.

“It’s slowed us down, but in this period of time with a pandemic, it’s our No. 1 one goal to show and demonstrate safety,” he said.

In the past several weeks, Shetty said he and other area eye doctors have been talking via Zoom videoconference about best practices, challenges they face and ways to address them. 

“We want the entire community of doctors offices to be a safe environment so patients don’t have to worry about seeing their eye doctor,” Shetty said. 

Shetty said he hopes the pandemic brings a higher standard of cleanliness and sanitation to not just doctor’s offices, but also to other public places.

“One of the positives that may come out of this is we’re probably going to have a much cleaner environment all around us,” he said. “Not just in our eye clinics, but everywhere in general. People are going to be more cognizant of it and more aware of the possibility of transmitting infections from coughing or sneezing.”

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