Raise your hand if you postponed or converted to telemedicine visits for “nonessential,” routine and/or preventive healthcare early in the Covid 19 pandemic. If yes, many of us did the same thing.
As stay-at-home restrictions lifted, many providers started seeing more patients in person while still offering a virtual option. But there can be confusion around which appointments we should now schedule to see the doctor in person.
Simple blood tests, urine tests and direct exams can detect early cancers, diabetes, hypertension and many other illnesses. Some critical aspects of care, like a physical exam, can only be performed in the office. Another question is whether it is safe to schedule overdue or upcoming screening tests and other procedures – especially as the pandemic continues to rise in many communities.
These are shared decisions between you and your healthcare provider. Keep in mind that your provider wants you to be in touch and wants you to get the medical care that you need. Call your doctor’s office to discuss your particular healthcare situation. Speak candidly about any concerns and questions you have, as well as making clear your needs and preferences. Together you can assess what’s best for you and make a game plan for your care.
If you’ll be scheduling an appointment for an in-person visit you will probably be asked if you are experiencing any Covid-related symptoms and if anyone in your home has tested positive for Covid-19.
Healthcare providers receive guidelines from state, local, county health departments and the CDC about how to safely operate their facility while minimizing risk to patients and their staffs. Many providers have implemented scheduling, staffing and technology tools to complement the physical distancing procedures and environmental changes they have made. If you are not automatically provided with the pertinent detail when you schedule your appointment, click here for some questions to ask the scheduler about the practices in place. You can also check out the provider’s website for information posted there about steps they are taking.
For more tips on how to safely navigate an in-person medical appointment, read below
- If you are experiencing Covid-related symptoms the day of your in-person appointment, call the provider’s office for guidance before you go in.
- When you arrive to the facility, you will likely find new procedures and safety precautions put in place since your last visit. Follow the requested instructions and communicate with the staff if you observe something or are asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Wear a mask or face covering throughout your visit unless you need to remove it for a procedure or are requested to do so by your provider.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol before and after touching any surfaces in waiting areas, exam rooms, and other common areas. Avoid touching surfaces as much as possible.
- Avoid touching your face, including your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow, and throw away the tissue. When wearing a mask, cough or sneeze into the mask.
- Follow social distancing recommendations as much as possible.
Information to collect:
- Write down the names of relatives on both sides of the family (ideally three generations): parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, cousins. (Accessing a family tree may be helpful)
- Add for each person any information you have about their:
- sex at birth
- date of birth
- known medical and mental health conditions and age of diagnosis
- any other details about lifestyle, habits, environmental factors, results of any genetic testing.
(If a family member is deceased, note age at time of death, any known medical/mental health conditions, and cause of death)
Start the conversation!
- Identify the family members on each side (mother’s and father’s side) who might be most knowledgeable about your family members.
- Let them know the reason you would like to ask them some questions and the kinds of information you are seeking. Give them some time to think about it or to collect info if needed.
- Share any information you have gathered so far and then ask them to add more details where possible.
- Some family members may be uncomfortable discussing these matters. Respect the privacy of your relatives as confidential information is shared. Let them know that having this information gathered will benefit ALL family members.
- The information can be gathered in person, by phone, or in writing – whatever is most comfortable and most convenient. In cases where information is incomplete, just include what is accurately known. Do not guess.
- Sometimes medical records and family documents like scrapbooks can fill in some blanks, as can public records.
What to do with the information you’ve collected:
- Create a written document (or see below for online options) with the collected family history information gathered.
- Share copies with other family members for them to share with their own doctors to inform them of their family health history.
- Give a copy of the Family Health History to your doctor for their records and review it with them. The document can help your doctor look for early warning signs of disease and recommend steps for reducing your personal risk of disease.
- Questions to ask your doctor about review of your Family Health History:
- Does my family history put me at risk for certain conditions or diseases? Other members of my family?
- Are there any screening tests I should have now or in the future?
- Should I have genetic counseling or genetic testing?
- What lifestyle recommendations do you have to reduce my risk?
- What information should I share with other family members?
- Be sure to update the records over time and provided updated copies to family members. This can be a valuable document for future generations as well.
Free online tools to help collect your family health history and share it with relatives and doctors.
Our ED, Mindy, recently had the opportunity to talk with Mama Bear Donita and share the Bag It story and the importance of self-advocacy and keeping track of your information.
- Maintain your ideal weight
- Physical activity
- Walk, jog, dance, bike, swim – or whatever you like to do
- Get up and move every hour
- Eat lots of fresh vegetable and fruits of every color, whole grains, beans
- Avoid sugar, processed meats, junk foods
- Limit/eliminate alcohol intake
- Do not smoke or use tobacco products
- Avoid risky behaviors
- Have regular check-ups with your primary care physician
- Maintain good overall health to avoid viruses and chronic infections that increase your cancer risk
- Get cancer screenings and cancer vaccines recommended by your doctor
- Protect your skin from the UV rays from the sun. Use sunscreen and don’t use tanning booths
- Steer clear of secondhand smoke and other environmental carcinogens
Want to know more? Check out these sites:
National Cancer Institute Prevent Cancer American Institute Cancer Research