Should you go to your routine medical appointment during the coronavirus outbreak?

Some medical offices recommend delaying routine, non-critical appointments as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The Medical University of South Carolina advises people to move routine annual visits to April 15 or beyond, said Dr. Terrence Steyer, medical practitioner, professor and chair of MUSC’s department of family medicine.

The latest recommendations from Prisma Health, on its website, urge people to stick to their appointments unless a doctor advises otherwise.

Steyer said urgent, acute patients – a wide range of problems that include a fall that injured a back or a urinary tract infection – are always urged to seek treatment as soon as possible.

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But for more routine visits, like a 3-month checkup for a diabetic patient, it’s best to call ahead to see if a phone or video appointment might work instead.

Some of those patients will need in-person visits and some won’t, Steyer said.

People with weakened immune systems should also contact their doctor before showing up, he said.

And anyone with symptoms of coronavirus or suspected contact must go through a different set of procedures, starting with a phone call to medical officials and a virtual tour that can screen for symptoms.

Recommendations about whether to show up can be confusing. If in doubt, call a doctor’s office to confirm an appointment and whether the provider recommends an in-person visit, Steyer said.

Phone lines have been down but are getting answers, so be patient, he said.

The process of limiting certain visits is called risk stratification and is expected to increase as healthcare workers are increasingly isolated or quarantined for safety reasons, Steyer said.

These healthcare workers are always in a position to help, with jobs such as medical coding, he said.

“We are doing everything we can to stop the spread of the disease,” Steyer said.

As concerns about the coronavirus continue, here are a few things to remember before going to a doctor’s office:

If you think you have coronavirus or breathing problems:

  • Start with a Virtual Tour, available from Prisma Health here, AnMed Health runs Virtual Tours at South Carolina Medical University (which has a Spanish option) and is available here. Or call 1-855-472-3432, a phone line maintained by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • If you have symptoms of respiratory disease, contact a doctor’s office before going there. Doctors’ offices will likely ask you about symptoms before and when you show up. Be proactive and let them know.

If you don’t have any symptoms or reason to believe you have coronavirus and no breathing problems, here’s how to keep up with your regular medical appointments.

  • Show up on time. Several doctor’s offices, such as the Kelly Ultrasound Center, schedule patients so that there are not multiple people in a waiting room.
  • Or reschedule routine visits at a later date. But don’t ignore urgent or acute medical problems.
  • Prisma Health recommends keeping appointments: “Please keep your existing appointments, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Our hospitals and doctor’s offices are safe, and people are at no additional risk of contracting the virus at any of our hospitals and clinics. “
  • Dr Terrence Steyer of the University of South Carolina Medicine said doctors’ offices cleaned all surfaces regularly and for many surfaces between each patient.
  • Medical officials are adding cleanliness measures, such as more frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and using gloves in more situations than before, Steyer said.
  • He said there is no need to shower or undress when returning from a doctor’s office, but it is a step that may bring comfort to some people.

Hospitals and medical centers have restrictions on visitors that include restrictions on children and number of people. These restrictions are in place for Prisma Health and AnMed Health facilities, including hospitals.


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