7 Precautions You Must Take Before Going to the Doctor Amid Coronavirus
Ensure everyone's safety before an in-person doctor's visit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As doctor's offices begin to reopen, it's important to take some extra precautions to keep yourself, the staff, and other patients safe during your visit. While social distancing isn't really possible between you and your doctor during in-person visits, there are other measures you can take ahead of your appointment that will help keep you healthy. We talked with healthcare professionals about what patients should do before going to the doctor during coronavirus to ensure the safety of all parties. And for more changes to prepare for, here are 10 Weird Ways Life Will Be Different After the Coronavirus Lockdown.
Check your temperature and the status of your symptoms.
Before heading to your appointment, take a moment to check in with yourself. Be honest and acknowledge even the slightest possibility of a coronavirus symptom. Medical care advocate and founder of GreyZone Health Io Dolka, MS, says that even if you are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, you should still take your temperature to be extra cautious.
"If you are symptomatic, call your doctor's office and ask to reschedule or ask if you can have a telemedicine/virtual visit instead," she says. "Currently, HIPAA rules are being relaxed to allow any type of platform to be used for virtual visits (even FaceTime or Skype)." If you don't observe any symptoms and you don't have a fever, you should be good to go into the office. But if you are going to be switching to a virtual appointment, check out these 7 Things You Need to Know About Virtual Doctor's Visits.
Purchase tissues and hand sanitizer.
These two items will be your secret weapon against any germs lurking in the doctor's waiting room. "Use the facial tissues to open doors, push elevator buttons, and then throw them away," suggests Dolka. "Use the hand sanitizer before walking in the reception area and after you sign any papers, touch surfaces, or see the doctor." This is a practice that should be followed in any public space, but it's especially important at the doctor's office.
Schedule your appointment wisely.
If there are too many people in the waiting room, it could make social distancing challenging. To avoid this, nurse practitioner Nancy Brook, MSN, suggests people "schedule early morning appointments or at a time of day/week when the office waiting room would be least crowded." If you're not sure what time would be best, inquire with the front desk at your doctor's office.
Christine Traxler, MD, says, "If you are elderly, have cancer, have diabetes, or are known to have lung disease or immune deficiency disease, your risk is greater than average. If this is you, you should schedule your appointment for the first visit of the day when the rooms and waiting areas are as clean and disinfected as possible." And for more ways to stay safe, follow these 13 Safety Precautions You Should Take Every Day to Prevent Coronavirus.
To help ease any anxiety and make sure your doctor's office is doing its part to keep you safe, feel free to ask questions when making your appointment. While you are on the phone with the front desk, you could ask if the office has any specific precautions they are asking patients to partake in, which will help you be prepared for what is expected of you. Additionally, you want to "make sure that your medical office is following the most stringent precautions. Make sure your doctor's office is testing their personnel, limiting the number of patients in the office room, and having their staff wear masks," says Brook.
Bring a credit card.
Money was considered dirty before coronavirus, but with COVID-19 lurking on paper money for up to four days, it has become especially taboo. Dolka says patients should "pay by credit card or ask the office to bill them. Cash is a notoriously dirty medium. Credit cards that you hand over to the check-in staff can be wiped down with hand sanitizer after they return them to you. Billing will save patients any interaction of hand-to-hand transactions." And for more on the germiest aspects of doctor's visits, Experts Say These Are the 8 Grossest Spots in Your Doctor's Office.
Buy or make a mask.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending people wear masks in public spaces, and some cities and states are legally enforcing this rule. "Wearing a mask should prevent you from passing anything to anyone else and may have an effect on whether you get disease from another person," says Traxler. Before going to your appointment, make sure you have procured a mask to wear in the waiting room. And to make sure you're getting the most out of your face mask, discover these 7 Precautions You Must Take Before Wearing a Mask.
Be prepared to fill out more extensive questionnaires.
Patients are generally expected to complete a questionnaire to update their medical history when visiting the doctor's office, but these questionnaires might become more detailed as a result of the coronavirus. Be ready to respond to questions about your travel history, whether you've had or been in contact with someone who had COVID-19, and any current symptoms or lack thereof.
"Many offices are now screening patients before entrance into the offices with a questionnaire, as well as a temperature check," says Joshua Mansour, MD. If you are appropriately prepared with the information the office requires, you can cut down your time in the waiting room, which will help lower your chances of possible contamination.