Receiving Healthcare during a Pandemic
Receiving Healthcare during a Pandemic
William Schmitt, DO
BCHC Family Medicine Physician
With the current pandemic in full swing and the novel coronavirus well-established in our state, there is a palpable level of anxiety in our local communities. There are many reasons for the anxiety and these may not be directly related to the virus or the disease it causes. Notable examples include loss of income, safely obtaining groceries and other necessities, childcare, and inability to spend time with loved ones. One stressor that I would like to specifically address is how healthcare needs can still be met in our current state of affairs.
With the novel coronavirus taking hold, many clinics have rescheduled appointments for chronic conditions and non-urgent concerns. Our clinics did this fairly early on to prevent the spread of the disease to vulnerable populations from those who may be asymptomatic, or have minimal symptoms but can still easily spread this disease. At the time, we were contacting patients to move their appointments to a later date or come up with a system to provide necessary medical care safely, timely, and effectively. We know that health concerns and needs do not go away during a pandemic, nor should they be ignored.
To address this, our team developed a system to continue to provide quality care that can address most healthcare needs. These changes include:
-Relocating some clinic locations and establishing a respiratory clinic to prevent exposure from those who may seek care for respiratory ailments, including suspected COVID-19 patients
-Retrofitting rooms for negative pressure to expel any potential virus from the air in that room
-Acquiring personal protective equipment for employees and patients alike
-Creating a call center for COVID-19 related questions
-Implementing drive through testing for COVID-19 for those who qualify for testing
-Acquiring tests as they become available
-Implementing telehealth in our clinics
There are still some areas where we are not temporarily able to provide care under the same ideal circumstances as we had prior to this pandemic, but I am proud of what we are able to offer during this unchartered time.
If you have a chronic condition or other health concern, you would still benefit from keeping your appointments as scheduled for optimal management and to prevent further complications. The same is true for acute issues that come up. With the offerings that we have, I would recommend calling your BCHC clinic to see if your appointment could be done via telehealth per your provider’s discretion. This can be done with or without video. I personally enjoy video telehealth, as I feel more engaged with my patients and can perform a visual physical exam and review medications or other documents easily. Patients have felt very comfortable with this new offering, as they do not have to leave their home but still feel confident that their healthcare needs are being met. Having said this, not all visits are amendable to telehealth.
For visits that require on-site care, we have made scheduling changes in our clinics to accommodate those who need to be seen face-to-face and keep them as safe as possible. In the Medical Associates clinic, we are scheduling appointments for those who are coming in for “well visits”, such as complete physicals for children and adults (especially if vaccines are needed) and those with chronic conditions who need face-to-face appointments, Monday-Friday from 9am-3pm. In the late afternoon, we can see those who have non-respiratory illnesses. Additionally, we are spreading out all on-site appointments to decrease the amount of patients within our waiting rooms at any given time. At the end of the day, each exam room is cleaned extensively and allowed to sit overnight “cleaning” until the following morning when we schedule “non-sick” patents. If you have a question as to how your appointment should be scheduled, please call one of our clinics.
For those without healthcare needs at this time, I ask that you do your part to prevent the spread of this virus even as the State of Iowa begins to open. We are in this together. I recommend following the advice we have been given to wear a mask in public places, to not gather in groups of 10 or more, continue to limit the time you go out in public, and when you do go out, maintain a safe distance of 6 feet or more. You can also keep yourself and others safe by washing your hands with hot water and soap for two “happy birthdays,” using hand sanitizer when this is not possible, and staying home when you are sick (“sick” means any symptoms even as mild as a mild sore throat or runny nose).
Being a healthcare provider at this time can provide its own anxieties, but in reality, anyone who interacts with large volumes of people is at risk of contracting COVID-19. I am a healthcare provider, but I am also a member of this community, and I share the same responsibility as you all do in social distancing and hygiene practices to prevent the spread of this disease. If you do have to go out, please be careful and support our local businesses as you are able. As a mentor once told me regarding my medical training, ‘A healthy amount of anxiety can keep us from missing dangerous disease processes’. I believe this is applicable here in that a healthy amount of anxiety can keep us safe (following protective and hygiene recommendations), but too much stress can have a deleterious effect. Please ask for help if you feel that your anxiety levels are higher than they should be, and we can help you. If your anxiety is over how you will have your current healthcare needs addressed, please know that we have many options to keep you healthy.
options to keep you healthy.