Visiting a doctor these days can be a daunting experience because of COVID-19, but there are several ways to ensure safety while traveling, such as social distancing and wearing a mask. Still, it is highly recommended to check with the doctor first before heading out.
The safety measures for visiting a physician at a clinic or hospital were detailed by the Mayo Clinic, an American not-for-profit medical center. Included in those safety measures were telemedicine, touchless payment, and scheduled prescriptions, which could reduce any hassle along the way. However, among all the safety measures, social distancing would greatly decrease the odds of catching COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.
How to Safely Visit a Clinic or Hospital
Right now, telemedicine is the recommended way to receive medical consultations, especially for nonemergency concerns. This is because remote or virtual medical visits prevent people from leaving their homes. They can maintain self-quarantine and obtain professional advice at the same time. But for those who have concerns that warrant a physical visit, safety protocols must be followed to avoid catching COVID-19 and wasting time outside.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the foremost thing people need to do before heading out is to do some research about a clinic or hospital. The first objective is to know the COVID-19 precautions enabled in the facility. Contact the facility to learn the steps being done and what they may require for physical visits. Most likely, clinics and hospitals with strict measures enforce cleaning protocols and social distancing, limit the number of visitors, conduct screening questions, perform temperature checks, and use personal protective equipment among personnel. That means patients must follow most of these procedures when visiting.
Upon contacting the facility, the patient should notify them of their visit. But that person must not go immediately unless told or without waiting for a return call. Clinics and hospitals right now are focusing on COVID-19 patients, and sudden appearances may risk visitors' exposure to the virus. In case the patient has symptoms, they need to detail them during the communication with the facility's representative. If symptoms are similar to COVID-19, the patient will be given specific instructions before leaving their home.
Touchless or remote payment options are something patients have to ask about. As much as possible, they have to avoid touching surfaces including the ones in the facility, like doorknobs and elevator buttons. Touchless payment options can be an integral role in preventing patients from touching counters. But patients who are not familiar with certain technologies can ask the facility if the bill can be sent by mail. If touching something is unavoidable, never touch one's face and wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water as soon as possible.
Social distancing is one of the best methods to avoid highly contagious illnesses. Maintain a distance of two meters or six feet from other individuals. Today, some facilities have marked floors to indicate where people should stand to maintain social distancing. If maintaining social distancing in a facility is impossible due to crowding, go to another part of the clinic or outpatient area.
If the visit is because of prescriptions, notify the clinic or hospital about it. This is to ensure they can provide the medications for the patient. Also, consider having prescriptions be mailed or asking the doctor for larger supplies to limit physical visits. The patient should also check the online services of the facility. There is a chance that their prescriptions may be supported through online transactions.
Lifting Some Public Restrictions Eases Social Distancing
On May 15, 2020, the American analytics company Gallup reported that more people were freeing themselves from isolation as restrictions in certain states were lifted. In the week from May 3 to May 10, 58% of adults in the US reported their isolation. Out of that, 17% were completely isolating while 41% were mostly isolating themselves. but that isolation rate was lower than the previous high of 75% in the week from March 30 to April 5.
Regardless of the orders from the government, many individuals followed self-isolation to protect themselves from COVID-19. About 64% of residents in states without the stay-at-home order isolated themselves in the week from April 20 to 26, while 51% of residents in those states isolated in the week from May 4 to 10. In states where the order was enforced, 71% of residents isolated themselves from April 20 to 26, while 64% did the same from May 4 to May 10, 2020.
The stay-at-home rule in different cities and nations is required to force physical distancing among individuals. One of the beneficiaries of that rule is the healthcare system. If more people obey social distancing, there will be fewer COVID-19 patients. And if there are fewer patients, there will be fewer deaths. This was demonstrated in a study led by Columbia University.
The study examined how social distancing could flatten the curve of COVID-19 and decrease mortality rates. Researchers estimated the spatio-temporal demand and supply in critical care in the US medical system. They estimated between 77,588 and 278,850 critical care beds were available in 3,142 US counties. They tested four reactive patterns of contact reduction: 0%, 20%, 30%, and 40%. The patterns involved measures to maintain social distancing.
Over a period of 42 days from April 2, 2020, to May 13, 2020, a contact reduction of 40% could decrease the number of counties exceeding their critical care bed limits between 81.5% and 87.3%. The estimated number of lives saved by a 40% contact reduction was between 1.9 and 4.2 times higher than high-level hospital surge response, the ability of a hospital to handle patients requiring specialized care. The decrease in the number of COVID-19 patients could give the much-needed break of medical workers. At the same time, the decrease could make room for patients with other illnesses, such as cancer and chronic kidney disease.
The simple effort of following social distancing can lead to cascading rewards. First, more beds are going to be available in hospitals. Second, more medications are spared due to the decline in patients. And third, more gaps to prevent the virus from being transmitted. The fewer the patients managed by healthcare workers, the lesser their odds of contracting the virus. This helps prevent the global healthcare system from collapsing.