Patient Safety FAQ
Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center remain, as always, committed to delivering first-rate cancer care in the safest setting possible. Cancer care and treatment has been constant throughout the pandemic, and several precautions are being taken to ensure a safe environment at all of our facilities.
The following FAQ details the precautions:
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I qualify for an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine?
- Vaccination is recommended for all eligible persons based on FDA-approved indications or emergency use authorization (EUA). With the widespread availability of highly effective and safe vaccines, the committee reiterates the need for patients with cancer to be fully immunized, including receiving third doses and boosters. Vaccination is also recommended for caregivers, household/close contacts, and the general public. This statement reflects the evidence that patients with cancer or other immunocompromising conditions are most effectively protected from COVID-19 when they are immunized and their close contacts and general community are also vaccinated.
- What precautions is Smilow Cancer Hospital taking to keep patients and families safe?
- Mandatory screening. Anyone who enters Smilow Cancer Hospital, or one of our Care Centers, will have their temperature checked for signs of fever and will be asked to answer screening questions about COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with symptoms will be tested for COVID-19.
Universal masking. Because SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness, is spread primarily from one person to another through respiratory droplets expelled through coughing, sneezing, and talking, we require that face masks be worn by every person who enters a Smilow Cancer Hospital facility. Our physicians and caregivers are wearing protective masks and are screened twice daily. If you do not have a mask, one will be provided.
Hand sanitizer stations. It is possible that novel coronavirus transmission can occur when someone touches respiratory droplets from an infected person that have landed on a surface and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or eyes. Because of this, good hand hygiene is crucial to preventing transmission of the virus. We will provide hand sanitizer at all entrances and at stations located throughout all of our Smilow Cancer Hospital facilities.
MyChart to minimize face-to-face contact. To minimize direct physical contact with office staff, we encourage all patients to use MyChart, an online patient portal that can be downloaded for free as an app to a mobile device. MyChart allows patients to schedule appointments, visit doctors remotely via Telehealth, complete any required paperwork before going to the doctor, check in for appointments electronically, and make any necessary payments online. Video visits and phone calls for follow-up and monitoring appointments, social work consults, virtual support groups, integrative medicine opportunities, and other online resources are also available.
Minimal time in waiting rooms. At many of our locations, patients can avoid the waiting room altogether. At certain locations, you will be able to call from the parking lot to let us know you have arrived. We will then call you to let you know when to come in, and you’ll go directly to your exam room.
Social distancing. For patients who cannot wait in their cars or outside of the building for their appointments, we have modified waiting room seating arrangements and taped lines on floors to ensure at least six feet of distance is maintained between individuals at all times. Reception and check-out desks are now equipped with plexiglass shields to further reduce the chances of transmission. In addition, we have expanded our hours of operations to increase social distancing.
Reduced patient traffic. Whenever possible, we are reducing our patient schedules and each doctor is assigned two exam rooms. This reduces the number of patients who come through our offices and exam rooms each day and minimizes patient-to-patient contact.
Cleaning/disinfecting after every patient. All public areas, offices, waiting rooms, and restrooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected several times a day. Exam rooms are cleaned after each patient and deep-cleaned every night. Our cleaning protocols, which follow the latest infection prevention guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), involve disinfecting surfaces by destroying infectious pathogens, including the novel coronavirus. We use hospital-grade disinfectants that the EPA has approved for use against SARS-Cov-2.
- What precautions are being taken to ensure that staff do not transmit COVID-19 to patients?
- All staff have their temperature taken twice a day to monitor signs of fever, and they are regularly tested for COVID-19. If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, he or she is sent home and cannot return to our facility until they recover and are no longer infectious.
All medical staff are required to wear face masks and, when necessary, additional PPE (personal protective equipment) such as face shields, goggles, gowns, and gloves. Though you may have heard about PPE shortages, our staff and facilities are equipped with the PPE they need.
- Will my outpatient procedure be safe?
- Smilow Cancer Hospital has instituted modified procedures to maintain the highest levels of protection for all patients, during any stage of treatment or personalized care plan. These procedures include dedicated clinical pathways to care for all of our patients, including enhanced measures in all of our surgical services as well as infusion and radiation oncology facilities. For patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment, all infusion spaces and treatment machines are carefully cleaned and rigorously managed to ensure both patient safety and comfort.
Whenever possible, follow-up appointments are conducted by telehealth so as to minimize unnecessary physical interaction and avoid potential exposure to the coronavirus.
Operating rooms and recovery areas are thoroughly disinfected after each procedure. Our cleaning protocols follow the latest CDC disinfection guidelines and are designed to eliminate infectious pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, from all surfaces.
- Are there special accommodations for at-risk patients?
- High-risk patients with a fever (who would otherwise require admission regardless of COVID-19 status), patients with concerning respiratory symptoms who do not meet severe criteria, and patients who have screened positive and who are scheduled for treatment that cannot be safely delayed, will be referred to our Smilow Rapid Evaluation Clinic for evaluation.
- I believe I have COVID-19. What precautions should I take for my appointment?
- If you believe you have COVID-19, contact your primary care doctor by phone to schedule an appointment for a coronavirus test. Appointments for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are scheduled for certain times of day or are seen at separate facilities. Our staff deep-cleans exam rooms each night to ensure they are disinfected for the next day. In addition, the Smilow Rapid Evaluation Clinic allows for quick evaluation and testing of Smilow patients for symptoms of COVID-19, facilitating triage to the most appropriate location of care.
- What if I’m anxious about coming in for an in-person appointment or a visit to the emergency department?
If you have questions concerning COVID-19 or coming to our facilities for an in-person appointment, please call our Yale Medicine/Yale New Haven Health COVID-19 Call Center at 203-688-1700 (toll-free, 833-484-1200). Health professionals are available by phone seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
All patients arriving through the ED and scheduled for admission will be ordered the 2-hour COVID-19 test and will be triaged after the results of their test are available. If a patient is suspected COVID+, the patient will be ordered the 6-hour test and be triaged to a COVID+ floor for further evaluation and care.
- Can I receive healthcare from home?
- Whenever possible, medical care is delivered via Telehealth appointments. Telehealth allows patients to communicate with doctors and medical professionals from their own homes using mobile devices. Patients can see their doctor on a screen, and likewise, doctors can see their patients. Doctors also have access to medical records during telehealth appointments. It is important that you follow up with your care team if you are not feeling well, have new or worsening symptoms, or have any concerns related to a current treatment plan. In addition, please reach out if you have any questions about your upcoming appointment, scans, or tests.