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As you isolate during the pandemic, you may feel the need to stay home, no matter what. Unfortunately, chronic medical issues are still a concern, and new health issues may pop up.
While staying home as much as possible is important to slowing the spread of COVID-19, ongoing medical issues are still a concern and new ones can come up, and in fact become a major concern if they are not caught early.
That is why it’s vital to continue visiting your doctor and seeking your regular medical care. The thought may cause some anxiety as you are urged to stay home, but healthcare professionals are taking extra safety measures to protect you.
Here are a few things you should know about visiting your doctor during the pandemic.
If you have a chronic health condition, such as heart failure, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you should regularly stay in touch with your doctor. Failure to keep up with regular care with these conditions could lead to more serious complications.
“Especially those with health conditions that affect their lungs, like COPD and asthma, should be seen to ensure their inhaler and medications are functioning at optimal levels,” said Jonathan Buck MD, an internal medicine specialist with TriHealth.
Another concern is mental health, as you may be experiencing loneliness, depression, or anxiety. These conditions could also negatively impact physical health.
“Whether physical or mental, these are issues that require the expertise of a doctor and won’t go away on their own,” Dr. Buck said.
If you don’t want to leave your house, a virtual visit is a great option. You can schedule one for certain issues, such as when you need to adjust your medication, discuss lab work, or follow up on lifestyle changes and your overall wellbeing. TriHealth offers virtual visit options across the system including adult and pediatric primary care, most specialties and even walk-in options such as Priority Care and TriHealth Clinic at Walgreens locations. They even offer virtual visits for those who don’t have a primary care provider or can’t schedule with them through TriHealthNow.
“Telehealth is great for pretty much anything that doesn’t require a physical exam, including follow-up visits and mental health aid,” Dr. Buck said. “But many conditions do require a physical examination, which is why we encourage patients to still come in to see their physicians.”
For example, many concerning health conditions do not have obvious symptoms but may present as an irregular heart rate without the patient noticing or an enlarged lymph node that may be found during a physical exam, so it is still important to be seen in person in some cases and be evaluated by your doctor for their insight and experience.
For in-person visits, health care professionals are working to help ensure your safety. For example, TriHealth is isolating patients with COVID-19 symptoms to keep them away from other patients and stays up to date on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on appropriate personal protective equipment and caring for COVID-19 patients. They also schedule sick visits during separate time slots from well visit patients, such as those who are visiting for an annual physical or other non-sickness related care.
Other precautions include:
More detail about TriHealth’s safety precautions are available here.
“My office and TriHealth in general have done an exceptional job spacing out visits, so patients aren’t coming into contact with others,” Dr. Buck said. “This decreased number of patients also gives us time to clean all the rooms according to CDC guidelines, so waiting and exam rooms are cleaner than any public place they may go.”
Even healthy people should plan to visit their doctors. Although certain screenings were initially put on hold to conserve vital medical supplies, TriHealth is making those screenings available, starting in May.
So, if you would normally be getting a screening such as a colonoscopy or mammogram, it’s time to schedule an appointment.
“Other diseases haven’t gone away. These types of things can be detected early on, allowing us to treat earlier with better outcomes across the board,” Dr. Buck said. “But we can’t do that if people won’t come in and get checked – we recognize the concern to stay home, but patients can rest assured we have gone above and beyond guidelines and precautions to ensure their safety.”
If you don’t have a regular doctor, don’t be afraid to start routine checkups with one, as health maintenance is important throughout life.
“I was always taught that if you take care of your car and maintain it, you can ensure it will always be there for you and function well,” Dr. Buck said. “Regular checkups are the same for us. They ensure we don’t break down.”
Emergency departments at TriHealth are also safe as they are exceeding guidelines on cleanliness and sanitation and are isolating patients with COVID-19 symptoms. If you need immediate medical attention in case of an emergency, please visit the closest emergency department. If symptoms are severe such as a suspected heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately.