6 Questions You Need to Ask Before You Go to Your Doctor's Office

Before you step foot in your doctor's office, make sure you ask these questions.

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For weeks, we've been told to stay away from doctor's offices unless it was absolutely necessary to see a physician. But now that coronavirus cases are going down in many places across the country and states are starting to open up, you might be wondering if it's safe to get that check-up or your annual physical. And you're not alone—many people are looking to make appointments they've missed over the past three months or so. According to Michael LeVasseur, PhD, a visiting assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told NPR it's safe to resume regular doctor's appointments as long as you make sure the office is taking proper precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Two epidemiologists, Drexel University's Neal Goldstein, PhD, and Temple University's Aimee Palumbo, PhD, talked to NPR about what specific measures you should ask your doctor's office about before scheduling an appointment. Here are the six questions they say you need to ask before you head to the doctor. And for more ways your doctor's office may change post-pandemic, check out 5 Things You'll Never See at Your Doctor's Office After Coronavirus.

1
"Do the staff and patients wear masks at all times?"

Doctor and senior man wearing face masks during coronavirus outbreak.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask, especially indoors, to abate the spread of aerosolized COVID-19 droplets. Make sure you confirm with your doctor's office that the staff will be wearing masks, and that other patients will be required to do so, too. And for more on masks, check out The 10 States With the Strictest Face Mask Laws.

2
"Do the staff have enough masks and protective equipment?"

Medical masks and gloves on a blue background.
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It's important to make sure your doctor's office has the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Every doctor, nurse, and assistant should have masks, gloves, and all other equipment necessary to keep themselves and their clientele safe.

3
"Will there be a limit on how many people can be in a waiting room?"

closeup of man in mask sitting in doctor's waiting room with cane
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Social distancing is no joke, especially in indoor, highly-trafficked, and poorly ventilated areas like waiting rooms. So, ask your doctor's office if they're limiting capacity in that shared space. And for more on staying safe indoors, check out Doing This One Thing at Home Greatly Reduces Your Coronavirus Risk.

4
"Are the staff being tested for COVID-19?"

Doctor's hands in protection gloves holds Testing Kit for the coronavirus test
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Testing for coronavirus is not an exact science, as there are still false positive and false negative results, but it is still the most reliable indicator that we have at the moment. So, you'll want to know if the staff at your doctor's office is tested frequently.

5
"How often are staff cleaning the waiting rooms and offices?"

Woman in rubber gloves sprays a counter top with cleaner
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Disinfecting public areas can sometimes feel like overkill. But in a doctor's office, where the likelihood of coughing, sneezing and releasing aerosolized viral droplets is particularly high, it's important to be sure disinfecting is a regular occurrence. And if you want to keep your home germ-free, check out Your Favorite Disinfectants, Ranked by How Quickly They Kill Coronavirus.

6
"If you don't drive, can you take public transit while keeping your distance from other people?"

woman wearing disposable mask on public transportation during coronavirus pandemic
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Public transit—buses, subways, and trains—are critical means for commuting, but those enclosed spaces can also be high risk environments, since they're crowded, high-trafficked and poorly ventilated. If a number of other patients are coming to their appointment this way, you may want to course-correct, or at least try to book your appointment first thing in the morning. And for more on public transit in the wake of coronavirus, check out 8 Things You May Never See on Public Transit Again After Coronavirus.

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