JACKSONVILLE, Fla, – Heading into the doctor’s office for a checkup or for a minor procedure might feel a little strange in the middle of a pandemic. But most doctor’s offices are back open — many with restrictions to keep people safe.
The American Medical Association is noticing as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the country, patients are more concerned about their risk and safety. Dr. Preeti Malani, an associate editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, offered some advice to help calm patients’ nerves, saying preparation, transparency and clear communication are key.
- Patients should call before going into the doctor’s office. The rules are different — Do you have to stay in the car until the doctor can see you? What is the expectation before you get to the appointment? You can communicate by phone or through the portal, so that way, there’s no ambiguity when you get there.
- Doctors are advised to suggest that their patients stay put. Unless it’s urgent, try not to travel — especially to places where the coronavirus is surging.
- Remember that risk remains high in the United States. You might think you’re safe if you travel in the U.S., but Malani points out the U.S. is now the epicenter of the coronavirus. She said the risk varies depending on where you go, “but the risk is not zero anywhere.”
- Practice basic prevention such as washing hands, social distancing in the waiting room and covering coughs and sneezes.
- Wear a mask in any public space. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out and made that recommendation, and there has been no scientific data to disprove that masks work.
- Malani also pointed out that communication is key, saying physicians should get to know their public health colleagues so they’re not working in a vacuum. She said communication often doesn’t happen until there’s an emergency but it should be flowing all the time.