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What to Do About Healthcare Appointments During the Pandemic

The pandemic has forced us to change our lives. We’ve stopped going to public places, like our favorite restaurants, movie houses and concerts.

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Dr. Terri Tiersky poses for a portrait in full personal protective equipment, double mask, face shield, gown and gloves, at her dentist office in Skokie, Ill., on Friday, June 12, 2020. Tiersky closed her office to all but emergencies in mid-March. She then helped arrange donations of personal protective equipment from the Chicago Dental Society for health workers treating COVID-19 patients. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Dr. Terri Tiersky poses for a portrait in full personal protective equipment, double mask, face shield, gown and gloves, at her dentist office in Skokie, Ill., on Friday, June 12, 2020. Tiersky closed her office to all but emergencies in mid-March. She then helped arrange donations of personal protective equipment from the Chicago Dental Society for health workers treating COVID-19 patients. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The pandemic has forced us to change our lives. We’ve stopped going to public places, like our favorite restaurants, movie houses and concerts. We’ve also reduced our social engagements and tried to practice social distancing as much as possible. 

Still, some precautions we should take to stay safe are a little ambiguous. Take healthcare, for example.

What should we do about our various healthcare appointments? Should we keep our dental appointment for teeth cleaning? Should we still go to our psychotherapist? Should we continue with any medical checkups, periodic health screenings, or elective surgeries? 

The short answer to these questions: the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has recommended that people postpone all nonessential medical, dental, and surgical treatment during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Relatient, a patient engagement platform, wants to ensure patients understand their options and have a checklist of items to know before returning to their next appointment.

If you do need to see a doctor for a physical examination, you could take precautions such as using virtual waiting rooms. If you need medical advice, then consider making an online appointment. If your health issue is not urgent, then it might be wise to reschedule your appointments. Let’s take a closer look at these three options. 

Inquire About Using a Virtual Waiting Room 

You could call your doctor’s office and ask them if they have virtual waiting room options. 

Healthcare practitioners quickly adopted virtual waiting rooms during the pandemic because they reduced the risk of infections. Essentially, this is a cloud-based software service that physicians and patients can access from a laptop or mobile device. Instead of sitting in the doctor’s outer office with other patients, you can message the clinic when you arrive at their parking lot and then wait in your car until you get a text message to enter the office. Relatient’s Virtual Waiting Room, for example, is a patient-centered solution that uses two-way massaging for patient registrations and check-ins. 

Ask About Making an Online Appointment 

You may not need to go see a healthcare practitioner in person at all — just talk to them online. For instance, you can still visit with your psychotherapist about mental health issues such as mitigating your heightened levels of anxiety during the pandemic, by using free video-and-voice services like Skype or Zoom. 

Similarly, if your doctor does not need to do a physical checkup, then you might benefit from using Telehealth. It uses online chats and video conferencing features to create virtual doctor visits. You can discuss your symptoms, ask questions, or disclose any side effects you’re experiencing from your medications with your doctor online… almost as if you were in the doctor’s office. Telehealth technology is private and secure, and it meets all privacy law compliance standards. 

Reschedule Your Routine Appointments 

If your medical issue is not urgent, it might be simplest to call your doctor and ask if it’s fine that you reschedule your appointments. Many doctors, in fact, recommend that their patients cancel their non- emergency appointments and postpone their elective surgeries. They also caution patients 65 years of age or older to be vigilant about taking health precautions like social distancing. 

They’re making these recommendations based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which warns that older adults with underlying health conditions

face the highest risk of experiencing a severe illness from Coronavirus. Dr. John McNeil, for example, has succinctly expressed this point-of-view. “In my opinion,” he said, “the risk of them coming out and coming to my office is greater than any benefit that I could do.” 

Weigh Your Options

Before the pandemic, keeping an appointment with your healthcare practitioner was an obvious way to monitor your health. Now during the time of COVID-19, you will have to weigh the risk of infection with the benefits of visiting your doctor. Most times, unless you have a critical health condition, you can still get the medical or professional mental health advice you need without leaving your house.

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