Should I make my regular doctors appointment now or put it off?
I am writing this post on May 15th, 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic from New Jersey, which is one of the hardest hit areas in the country from this virus.
The state has now had about three weeks of declining hospital admissions and our local hospitals have available capacity of both hospital beds and ventilators.
With the curve flattened (or at least flatter) and medical offices now restarting routine care visits I’m hearing a lot of questions about whether or not, as a patient, should you make an appointment now or should you push that appointment off for some period of time?
When I look at what is going on around us and what we are likely to see going forward my response to that question for most people is do it now. Here is why.
Most medical offices are restarting their appointments very conservatively. That means that they have significantly reduced the number of patient visits they have in any given day. Our practice is currently running at about 50% of our normal capacity.
Most offices are trying to keep their waiting rooms as close to empty as possible. In our practice we are having patients check in from their cars and are only having them come in when there is an open exam room waiting for them. We along with most practices are limiting visits to just the patient only, no family members unless the patient needs assistance.
Hand sanitizer, disinfecting solutions and PPE are now much more readily available and being utilize more stringently than ever, with most offices having hand sanitizer out and available for both employee and patient use.
All offices are requiring that everyone who enters wear a facemask.
Many offices, as ours does, are testing everyone who enters temperature, patients, family members and employees, and not allowing anyone in the office with a temperature over 100.
Overall precautions being taken within the medical office is probably at its absolute highest right now. It is highly unlikely that it is going to be any safer to go to your doctor’s office in a month or two or maybe even 6 months from now than it is now. The only thing that is likely to make it safer anytime in the future is the development of a vaccine and that will likely take at least a year.
Why not wait for 3 months or so?
The main issue with considering waiting a month or two is why? Is it going to be safer two months from now than it is now? What is going to change in a month or two to make it safer? The answer is probably nothing and there are even reasons why it may be less safe in a couple of months. We could see another spike in virus cases as the government eases up on restrictions. It is unlikely that going forward that medical offices are going to be able to sustain running at 50% capacity for an extended period of time. There is almost no chance of a vaccine being available in 3 months. Now none of those things may happen and it could be just as safe to see your doctor 3 months from now than it is now, but it is not likely to be safer.
If you are due for a visit to your doctor, especially if it is to follow up on a significant medical problem you are probably safest getting that done sooner rather than later. Remember there is also some downside to waiting. Dealing with your medical problems and doing some preventative medicine can significantly improve your long-term health status. In our particular situation, especially for anyone who has already had their usual visit pushed off, there is risk of worsening vision over time if problems aren’t identified and addressed.
Whether that appointment you are due for is with us, your primary care doctor, cardiologist or whichever doctor you are supposed to see…….. I’d make that appointment now.