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Is It Safe to Go to The Doctor in COVID-19?

Guest blog post from Clint Cummins, CEO, and Danielle Hassel, MD, President, Memphis Medical Society

The pandemic has clearly had a dramatic effect on all of us, particularly in the healthcare system, whether you are provider, patient, payer, caregiver, or all of the above. One of the more noticeable effects has been the decrease in the public seeking care for non-COVID-19 illnesses or follow up care for chronic issues.

A recent survey conducted by our partners at Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) reveals that more than half of all doctor’s offices had a 50% or more decrease in office visits and 88% faced decreases in office visits of more than twenty-five percent. Many of the survey respondents were in private practice. These situations are leading many practices to assess their long-term viability. That is not good for the health of our city and state.

So, let’s answer the question: Simply stated, YES, it is safe to go to a doctor’s office! A few precautions should be taken, but they are no more inconvenient than wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.

  1. Call First – there is a possibility your symptoms or condition can be treated via telehealth/virtual care (e.g. telephone or video conference). Your doctor’s office will ask questions to determine whether that is possible.
  2. Know Your Clinic’s Guidelines – some clinics may be located in office buildings with shared tenants or other unique circumstances. Many offer the ability to wait in your car until they are ready to bring you into an exam room. Others offer temperature checks at the entrance to the building. Most clinics will make this information available to you via phone, email or their website. Don’t hesitant to ask. Not all clinics are created equal, so do not hesitate to ask what you need to do in order to ensure the safest appointment possible.
  3. Protect Yourself – wear a mask or face covering to the in-person appointment if available. If you do not have access to a mask, then let the clinic staff know before you walk in. The clinic should be able to provide one for you. Wash hands and use hand sanitizer when given the opportunity. Clinics will use proper screening and safety guidelines to ensure you do not come in contact with patients known by the clinic to be positive for COVID-19.
  4. Protect Others – use your mask to protect others.  Limit the number of individuals who travel with you to your appointment, as they may not all be allowed inside with you.
  5. Know What to Expect for Your Safety
    1. Clinics are keeping suspected contagious cases, especially any threats of COVID-19, completely separated. This may occur through protocols such as seeing only well patients in the morning and sick patients in the afternoon. Then, staff will disinfect the clinic before opening the following day.
    2. The already-stringent cleanliness protocols of practices have only been stiffened during the pandemic. Practices should be disinfecting rooms and equipment thoroughly between patient visits and disposing of biological waste that would be at risk for contamination.
    3. This is reciprocated in the health of and safety of the clinic staff. Clinics do not want to put patients or staff at risk, therefore strict guidelines should be given to staff who should not appear at work if they have fever or suspicious symptoms.  Many clinics go as far as to test employee temperatures daily or enforce regularly scheduled COVID-19 testing of staff.

Most importantly, do not put off necessary care, whether it is in person or via telehealth! If you’re managing a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure for example, then you should continue to seek care.  If you have a physical injury, you should contact a physician without hesitation.

Our primary concern is the health and safety of our patients and our community – that’s you!

If you need a physician or have questions, go to mdmemphis.org to find what you need.

Posted by Cristie Travis at 10:04 AM

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