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Your Doctors Office is Open: What You Need to Know

Your Doctors Office is Open: What You Need to Know

As we have practiced isolation to decrease the transmission of COVID-19, many non-urgent doctor’s office visits have been canceled or delayed. Some individuals have postponed appointments or have avoided going to the doctor, but it is safe to go to the doctor’s office as urgent and many regular visits can be scheduled. Virtual appointments will continue and are a good option in some circumstances. Dr. Robert Glazer is the Medical Director for Torrance Memorial Physician Network. He answered a few questions about what doctor visits will look like in the days ahead.

Q: Is it safe to visit my primary care physician?

A: Yes. During the ‘shelter in place’ order some offices were simply closed while others offered limited access. While emergency departments always remain open, and emergent surgeries performed, all elective visits, procedures and surgeries were canceled or postponed. We are progressing in our knowledge of mitigating risk to our patients and staff, and we now feel comfortable making the office more available for face-to face encounters. Our offices have taken measures to ensure both patient and medical staff safety, such as taking temperatures upon entering an office, and limiting the number of people in the reception, waiting and patient examination areas. All health care staff and patients must wear masks, and exam rooms are disinfected after each patient leaves.

Q: Is it a good idea to go to the doctor’s office or other medical service offices such as imaging centers or labs?

A: All outpatient centers on the Torrance Memorial campus are taking the precautions listed above. The doctors are concerned that necessary ongoing and preventative care have been delayed or postponed because of the “sheltering at home” policy, and there can be unhealthy ramifications because of this. We intend to help our patients catch back up in our offices and certain patients can go back to regular doctor visits.

Q: What about alternatives to face-to-face doctor visits?

A: Our clinics have instituted Telehealth, which are online, virtual visits. Most chronic health conditions, and some acute ones, can be addressed during these virtual discussions. Nothing can truly take the place of the face-to-face visit, but this has demonstrated to be an excellent substitute. We are using Telehealth to complete the very important Medicare Senior Annual Wellness Exams (even by telephone, for those without WiFi). Our mental health colleagues are finding Telehealth services particularly suited for emotional issues. Although, Telehealth cannot replace all visits, we will continue to integrate virtual visits as appropriate during this time. Routine appointments for annual screenings, mammograms, colonoscopies and other procedures are still advisable. Follow the advice of your physician.

Q: What types of regular checkups should patients schedule now?

A: All types of regular check-ups should be scheduled. Distancing requirements and the need to protect vulnerable groups, for now, necessitate some discretion as to who should come into the office at this time. For this reason, and to ensure the safety of all, please follow the advice of your physician or physician’s office on whether your appointment should be in person or a virtual Telehealth visit. Right now we are fully-operational, procedures and elective surgeries are currently being scheduled and we are allowing patients who require preoperative clearance into the offices. Also, since patients who are having significant pain or have had an injury need to be physically examined, these patients are being scheduled in the office. If there is a concern, the doctor’s office can speak with patients ahead of time to determine what would be in the patient’s best interest.

Q: When will there be open access to medical offices?

A: All essential services are currently available to all patients. Factors that will help us determine the safety of remaining open will be viral infection rates, advice from the public health entities, and of course recommendations from our infectious disease leaders at Torrance Memorial. The most important thing for our patients to remember is to not ignore or delay the care they need.

Q: What measures are being taken to ensure a face-to face doctor visit is safe?

A: Doctor’s offices already have strict protocols for hygiene and disinfecting surfaces. In addition, they will be keeping up with new recommendations offered by the CDC. Some offices will see fewer patients to create more space, and all offices have already rearranged their waiting areas. We are learning more about COVID-19 every week, and any new precautions will be added to our protocols accordingly.

Q: What can the patient do to make a visit to a doctor’s office safer?

A: Speak with your doctor’s office to familiarize yourself with how you can prepare for the visit ahead of time. Wear a mask, but if you don’t have a mask, one will be provided for you. If you are feeling any symptoms of COVID- 19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath or cold symptoms), call before your arrival and ask about the office’s policy and ability to accommodate you. If you need the assistance of a caretaker, or if the patient is a child, please bring only one caretaker. When you arrive at the doctor’s office, cooperate with entry procedures and answer all questions about your health, exposure and travel honestly.

Note: If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or need to speak with a doctor, please contact your Primary Care doctor or call our physician referral coordinator at 310-891-6717.

Our Emergency Department is prepared and capable of safely handling ALL emergency needs during this time.

Robert Glazer, MD, is Medical Director for Torrance Memorial Physician Network. He practices at 3333 Skypark Drive, Suite 100 in Torrance. He can be reached at 310-784-6300.