Category: Preventative Action
COVID-19 has impacted most every aspect of our lives and changed the way we go about our daily activities. This includes going to the doctor. I have been getting a lot of questions from family, friends, and patients about going to the doctor and wanted to provide some information I hope you find helpful and comforting.
Is COVID serious? Do I really need to wear a mask?
Yes, COVID is serious. Please wear a mask, please socially distance, and please respect recommendations for limited group sizes and mingling. This is not a "little flu" and this is not political. This is a public health crisis that warrants respect for science and scientists and listening to doctors first and politicians second. Again, please wear a mask, please socially distance, and please respect recommendations for limited group sizes and mingling.
Should I go to the doctor? Is it ok to wait?
Yes, you should still go to the doctor. People who access primary care and have a primary care provider have better health outcomes. COVID does not change this. While COVID will go down as a major cause of death in 2020, it will not be the leading cause - not even close. Every year in this country approximately 650,000 people die of heart disease and 600,000 people die of cancer. These are the kinds of issues we address every day in primary care and COVID does not change this. Vaccines should not wait, certain screening tests for are critical, and delaying care can result in irreversible damage to your body.
Is it safe to go to the doctor? What steps are being taken to ensure it is a safe experience?
Yes, it is safe to go to the doctor. At Pacific Medical Group in Canby, our clinic undergoes extensive cleaning prior to clinic opening, between each patient, and beyond. We have developed workflows to keep those with COVID or suspected COVID out of the clinic (for example, all testing for COVID is done in our parking lot) and to minimize wait times in the lobby and common areas for patients. Our receptionists are behind plexiglass, our entire staff wears a mask during the day, we require all our patients to wear masks during their clinic experience, and provide masks for anyone who does not have one. Heart disease and cancer don’t care about COVID, and if you or someone you love is sick, hurt, sad or need other medical help, it is important to seek care. Children and seniors are especially hurting right now in this pandemic.
Does telemedicine work? Are you seeing a lot of patients this way?
Yes, telemedicine can be effective. Virtual care a.k.a. telemedicine is another way medical practices are responding to the pandemic. Most insurance companies are covering these visits currently and have indicated they will continue to do so at least through the end of 2020. They are usually billed to your insurance and covered similar to an office visit. While certain visits are still best handled in-person, if you do not feel comfortable coming to the office due to COVID, telemedicine is an option worth considering.
I find these virtual visits can work very well, especially if you already have a good patient-doctor relationship. For managing chronic conditions, I have had a lot of success with patients getting necessary bloodwork done prior to visits and then discussing results and concerns through telemedicine. These visits clearly work best when patients are prepared. For example, check that your camera’s phone and microphone are working beforehand, have a list of medications handy, have a recent blood pressure or blood sugar log with you if this is relevant, and have a list of issues or questions written down. The new technology can become a distraction and it is easy to forget things you wanted to talk about!
Do other people feel stressed out right now? Are you seeing a lot of depression in the office?
Yes, it certainly seems that everyone is stressed right now! I urge everyone to make mental health a priority. We are all in this together. It is therapeutic to talk about your stress and have shared experiences so don't hesitate to open up to a family member, friend or your doctor. It is common to have depression and anxiety disorders and many people are struggling with these conditions right now. Talk to your doctor about medication and non-medication options. Treating depression and stress does not mean you have to go on medication! While there can be a role for medication, establishing healthy relationships, healthy coping habits, healthy diet and regular exercise are often as effective as the "best" pill.
Where can I get more information?
The family of Pacific Medical Group clinics is here to help you! Talk with your provider, who can direct you to additional resources. For COVID-19 information from the national perspective, I recommend The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov. For local information, I recommend The Oregon Health Authority www.oregon.gov/oha. The Oregon Health Authority currently offers a daily newsletter that you can have emailed to you. This provides regular, succinct updates on COVID-19 cases in Oregon as well as other relevant news.
By Michael Csaszar, MD