The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into all of our day to day routines, including going to work, taking our children to school, running household errands, exercising, and even going to see our doctors or dentists.
Regular primary care visits are as equally essential as preventing the spread of the COVID 19 virus. Primary care allows us to screen for chronic illness and cancer as well as manage those who already have these diagnoses. As we all know, these are the same conditions that put us into the high-risk category for suffering from severe illness with COVID 19 and even seasonal influenza. Primary care providers can also be our reminders to make sure we maintain healthy weight by nutrition and exercise as well as cutting back high risk activities like smoking and excessive alcohol intake. Primary care visits are recommended at least annually and more frequently if you are high risk or have any chronic illnesses that need to be monitored more closely.
One positive thing that has come from the pandemic is the more widespread use of telemedicine. Although telemedicine seems daunting to those that have never used it, often it is as simple as performing a face to face video chat with your provider on your smart phone or computer. Telemedicine allows you to keep up these essential primary care screenings without ever leaving your home. Unlike going to the doctor’s office which can mean long wait times, you are often able to connect directly with your provider in a matter of minutes. After using telemedicine for the first time in the past few months, I have gathered several helpful tips to help your visit go as smoothly as possible.
First, make sure prior to your call that you have good internet connection and that you are located in a quiet room with no background noise.
Second, just as many providers ask their patients to do at their regular appointments – gather all of your medications including supplements and vitamins that you are taking so that your provider has a clear understanding of your current regimen.
Finally, your provider will be very appreciative if you can gather a set of vital signs for them before you begin your visit. This helps give the provider a full picture of your health. If you have a scale - weigh yourself; if you have a thermometer – take your temperature; if you have a BP cuff – take it.
After you see the ease of your first telemedicine visit, you are going to wish you could continue to do it in the future. One thing to note is to ask if your provider will allow you to complete your lab work before the visit – this limits the amount of time you are actually in the office but still allows for an efficient visit by being able to discuss your labs directly with your provider.
Of course, if your provider has any concerns, they may ask to see you in person. Most offices are taking full precautions by requiring social distancing, masks and screening for symptoms before anyone enters the office to protect their staff and their healthy patients. Although this pandemic is something we never expected, we are facing the challenge to continue providing our patients with exceptional primary care.
Emily Snider-Entrekin is a nurse practitioner with Norwood Clinic.
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