What to ask your provider when you go back for the medical and dental treatment you need
When COVID-19 cases stabilize or decline to the point that communities and businesses are able to safely reopen, it’s also the right time to get back to routine medical or dental care.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll found that through the coronavirus pandemic, nearly half of Americans surveyed said they or a family member delayed or deferred medical care. In some cases, their health worsened, they said. But as stay-at-home restrictions are relaxed, most of those who said they delayed care said they expected to get the delayed care within the coming three months.
Regence recommends that members not delay needed care, including preventive care, which is covered by most health plans 100 percent. As you consider whether you feel safe to return for face-to-face appointments, Dr. Cheryl Pegus, President of Consumer Health Solutions and Regence’s Chief Medical Officer, says you should keep a few things in mind.
Use the same criteria you would when socializing with anyone else, she says. First and foremost, don’t go out if you are sick or your symptoms have been confirmed as presumptive for COVID-19. If you have been told to have a visit for COVID-19 testing, follow protective distancing even for that visit, and self-isolate while at home.
If you’re healthy and ready for an in-person visit, be prepared for things to look different from how they did before COVID hit. Providers will check on your relative health before they allow you to come into their office, making sure you don’t have COVID symptoms. Dentists or others might also require a temperature check because they’ll be working closely with you during your appointment. Some might ask you to wait in your car until it’s time for your provider to see you.
Once you go in, everyone from the receptionist on should be wearing a mask, Pegus says, and anyone caring for you during your appointment should be in protective gear such as gloves, gowns, face masks and sometimes shields, depending on the procedure. You should also wear a mask as required.
Be your own advocate. Pegus says you should consider asking your provider a couple of key questions to reassure yourself:
- Is there a separate waiting area for people who are reporting COVID symptoms?
- Has anyone in your office – or any patient who’s been in – tested positive in the past three days?
- Can this visit be done by telehealth?
Make sure you don’t have any symptoms yourself to help prevent the spread of disease. Also keep in mind the prevention advice you’ve heard all along:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Wear a mask.
If you or a family member has tooth pain, fevers, chest pain, limb weakness/slurring speech (signs of a stroke) don’t wait to get urgent and emergent care. If you’ve delayed routine or preventive care, call your doctor’s office, check their website and find out what processes they have put into place. Staying healthy by having your prescriptions on hand, taking them as prescribed, eating healthfully, exercising and getting enough sleep matters today and always.