With COVID-19 rates stubbornly high around the United
States, you might be wondering if it’s safe to go to the doctor’s office right
now. Rest assured that medical professionals are doing all they can to make
sure your experience is disinfected and safe.
care can be delayed but even some preventative care should not be delayed at
this time,” said Premera Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mia Wise. “This is a great time to
stay connected with your primary care. Your PCP team should be able to help you
return to care in a safe fashion. If you are not sure if your care is time
sensitive, reach out to inquire.”
Dr. Wise and Premera Associate Medical Director Dr. Neil Kaneshiro
stressed the importance of following the recommended vaccination schedule.
The number of vaccines ordered has dropped by 30% in recent months. This is
concerning because it could lead to an increase in diseases we already have
Changes to Expect
When you call to make an appointment, you might be asked
more questions than you’re used to. This is because clinics are trying to
separate patients experiencing symptoms of COVID from patients coming in for
“Clinics will screen patients for symptoms or recent exposure
and ensure that those patients with positive screening are seen in a separate
part of the clinic,” Dr. Wise said.
Dr. Kaneshiro, took New Day viewers on a tour of his
pediatric clinic. His clinic has two floors, so one is dedicated to patients
showing symptoms of COVID. Other clinics might have sick patients come in the
mornings and well visits in the afternoons.
Your medical team might also request that you limit who goes
to the appointment. If possible, send just the adult patient or just one adult
with a child.
Arrival at the Clinic
Signs on the door remind everyone to wear a mask while
inside and to tell the staff if they are experiencing any symptoms of
COVID. Everyone who enters the clinic
has their temperature taken, including staff members.
When you go to the doctor’s office, you might also find that
you spend little time in the waiting area. Some clinics have patients wait outside
until their exam room is ready. Others have patients wait in exam rooms rather
than linger in common areas.
On the topic of exam rooms, they are thoroughly disinfected
between patients. Kaneshiro showed New Day viewers how all touched surfaces,
including door handles, chairs, and countertops are disinfected before the next
Seniors are at higher risk of COVID infection and complications.
People over age 65 also have more health conditions that need care. This raises
the question, is it worth potential exposure to go to the doctor for a
“Every patient has their own individual risk factors,” Dr.
Kaneshiro said. “Visits to the doctor need to be thought about carefully. The
best way to manage that is to have a conversation with your physician or
physician’s office. They can help you decide on what is appropriate.”
They might also direct you to no-contact virtual care visits.
Those covered by Medicare plans must use healthcare providers with traditional
brick and mortar clinics rather than the new app-based care providers.
Kaneshiro’s best tip is “make sure you have a good primary
care provider who you can trust.”
Physical examination and lab testing isn’t always necessary,
Kaneshiro said. Some conditions, like dermatological and mental health issues
can be treated through a phone or video appointment.
“Telehealth has gone 0 to 90 in 2 months,” Kaneshiro said.
Healthcare providers who didn’t previously offer care
virtually got up to speed quickly and opened this new option for patients. And
it’s going well. In fact, all signs point to virtual care sticking around long
after the COVID crisis subsides.
“This is a whole new world for medicine,” Kaneshiro said.
The Future of COVID
The good news is that vaccine development is looking good,
Kaneshiro said. A few candidates are nearing FDA approval. The vaccine is going
to be key to getting back to near-normal life.
“I, unfortunately, see a potential long-term issue with it because it's such a smart virus," Kaneshiro said.
He explained that the silent and mild infections it produces
in many infected people make it likely to stick around for a long time. Even
vaccines cannot guarantee a person won’t get COVID.
“It’s going to be in the population for a while,” he said.
He did give some hope though.
“If we do our part, each one of us, wear our masks, don't expose ourselves unnecessarily and hang tight for the vaccine, things will get back to some semblance of normal quicker than if we just give up and say, oh I can't take it anymore,” Kaneshiro said. “So we just really need to do our part to help ourselves, our families and each other.”
Dr. Kaneshiro takes us behind-the-scenes at his clinic.