A handful of medical organizations released guidelines today on the safe return of medtech company representatives to healthcare facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance released today by AdvaMed, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) builds on the April 17 joint statement by AHA, AORN, the American College of Surgeons, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists on the resumption of elective surgeries.

Several medical device companies, especially those in orthopedics, have suffered major drops in sales since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommended in March that healthcare providers postpone elective procedures until further notice to preserve personal protective equipment. The CMS decision followed one by the American College of Surgeons calling for hospitals to “minimize, postpone or cancel” elective procedures until the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak slows down.

The new guidance seeks to align access standards and processes across healthcare facilities, with principles and considerations rooted in guidance from the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA, and state and local authorities. It also meets the AdvaMed code of ethics, according to the trade organization.

The recommended framework calls for hospitals to be the primary provider of personal protective equipment (PPE), so healthcare providers have priority. It also allows company reps to provide their own PPE as a back-up for emergency procedures.

It recommends against COVID-19 diagnostic testing of asymptomatic reps, so that diagnostic testing resources can be prioritized for patients, symptomatic health care workers and those with known or suspected exposures, consistent with CDC and other clinical guidelines.

Three of the organizations argued strongly for resuming elective procedures.

“Many patients have waited and postponed elective and non-emergent care, understanding what our priorities had to be, but hospitals and health systems realize non-COVID health issues also need to be addressed in a timely fashion,” said Michelle Hood, EVP and COO of AHA, in a news release. “It is important to recognize that so-called elective care or scheduled care often involves providing treatments and procedures that are critical to caring for those with chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, and delays in care can result in worsening conditions for these vulnerable patients.”

“Too many patients are going without the care that is absolutely vital to their health,” added AdvaMed president & CEO Scott Whitaker. “Lives are being lost or irreparably ruined as countless Americans forego the care they can no longer afford to put on pause. It’s time for essential scheduled procedures and surgeries to resume, and this guidance we’re releasing shows how that can be done safely and responsibly.”

“Nurses and medical device representatives are partners in providing safe patient care and, due to COVID-19, their communications have been interrupted,” added Linda Groah, CEO and executive director of AORN. “We believe this guidance will reactivate these important relationships in a manner that is safe for the patients as well as the health care workers and device representatives.”