It has now been three weeks since we “reopened” our office, and I wanted to provide everyone some feedback. We have significantly changed how we handle the flow of patients through our office to lower the risk of exposure to COVID-19. I am happy to report that I feel the current risk to patients is extremely low. The changes to the workflow can be cumbersome, but when everyone knows what to do, it works beautifully. Here is what we are asking of you:
For all in person appointments:
Wear a mask at all times, including covering your nose
Call the front desk to “check in” with insurance/credit card info from your car when you arrive in the parking lot.
Wait in your car until our Medical Assistant calls you up so that you can go straight back to a sanitized exam room with minimal overlap with other patients.
Stop at front desk on the way in only to identify yourself and to self scan your insurance card or credit card if not on file
Expect to go straight to the exam room without sitting in the waiting room. Please feel free to wash your hands using the exam room sink.
Expect all staff to wash their hands once they are in the room with you.
“Check out” should be unnecessary unless you need additional paperwork completed
Should I schedule an in-office or a virtual visit?
We are performing all of the usual activities in the office. This includes routine checkups with EKG’s and lab work. Any visit that would be better performed in person, is now being offered in person. Just call to make an appointment. However, we do continue to recommend Virtual Visits for: anyone who may be actively sick with COVID; anyone who is at high risk for COVID susceptibility; or for a visit for any reason that might be able to be handled over our virtual visit platform. Obviously, the virtual visits are safer and more convenient, and for the moment, covered by insurance. And the virtual visits are working extremely well, even for mental health visits, compared to trying to talk with each other through a facemask. At least on the computer I can see your face! Hours for any type of visit remain 7:30am-7pm M-Th, 7:30am-4:30pm Fri, and 9am-2pm Sat.
Where can I get COVID-19 testing?
We are able to test for the COVID IgG antibodies, which looks for prior infection, by drawing the blood in our office and sending it to Quest Lab using the ELISA test. And we can order the nasal swab COVID PCR RNA test for active infection through one of the walk-thru or drive-thru testing sites, such as at Sibley, GW, or one of the newer sites that have recently become available. Testing for asymptomatic people who either just want to know or for those wanting to socialize or work with others remains somewhat difficult, but can be arranged. Right now we are asking
that you set up a virtual visit if you would like for us to prescribe this test for active infection. Of note, the ability to test for active infection is critical for identifying people very early in their illness, and it appears that this test will be more readily available without a doctors prescription in the next two to three months.
Can I bring the kids to visit Grandma?
That is a difficult question. I know this is not a popular opinion with anyone, but I think you should put it on hold until the medical community can offer some real protection to this virus, with a vaccine or treatment. It is my opinion that this will occur in the first half of 2021, so we should just not risk it. Before then, would I go on a vacation that required air travel and eating in restaurants? Even if you are young and healthy, I don’t think so. There are signs that there may be long term damage from getting sick. and I don’t think it is worth the risk. What if we get a negative test result from the nasal swab just prior to travel? I fully agree that would be incredibly valuable information, and would lower the risk considerably. However, currently the tests are not very accurate, and not everyone in the group will have access to the test. So this last scenario depends on your tolerance for being exposed to any risk.
Thank you again for your continued support during the last few months. I hope you all remain safe and healthy, and have a nice Independence Day.