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What to Know Before Returning to Your Doctor’s Office
During the height of the pandemic, many facilities postponed non-emergency care in order to treat COVID-19 patients and preserve supplies, such as masks and ventilators. But hospitals, doctors’ offices, surgery centers, testing labs, and other sites of care are beginning to reopen. Moving forward, hospitals and physicians are preparing to not only care for COVID-19 patients (including any surge in cases), but also to resume all health care that was postponed due to the pandemic. Providers and facilities are taking precautions to enable you to access care safely.
Talk to your health care providers about your health care needs. Your provider can help you determine how to get the care you need, whether you need an annual physical, a preventive screening or vaccination, a rescheduled surgery, or have a chronic condition that requires regular checkups.
These recommendations can help when seeking non-emergency treatment.
It’s important to get the care you need, especially if it is connected to potentially serious health conditions such as a heart attack or stroke. Don’t postpone necessary preventive care such as immunizations or cancer screening. Talk to your provider if you have any questions about when to seek treatment.
Know what to expect
Before your visit, talk with your health care provider about the precautions they are putting in place to keep patients safe. Many facilities have established procedures for cleaning and disinfecting, have updated waiting room guidance, and created separate areas for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care.
To prevent you from getting COVID-19, or giving it to others, these basic precautions can help:
- Wear a face covering – A face covering helps limit your risk of getting or spreading disease.
- Avoid crowded waiting areas – Waiting rooms should have chairs spaced far apart or you may be asked to wait in your car until your visit.
- Limit visitors – If possible, try to limit the number of people who accompany you to an appointment to one.
- Wash your hands often – Use soap and water for 20 seconds, or hand sanitizer when washing your hands is not possible.
- Have a screening before entering a facility – Before you can enter a health care facility, you may have your temperature taken, or be asked questions about your health status.
- Consider telehealth – Many providers offer telehealth (or telemedicine as it is also known) to have appointments over the internet, by phone, email, or other digital media.
For some procedures, such as a surgery, it may necessary to be tested for COVID-19 beforehand, or self-isolate prior to your surgery to reduce the risk that you have COVID-19. Your provider can advise you if it is determined that advanced testing is necessary.