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.
Bag It had the opportunity to be part of the University of Arizona Cancer Center Community Outreach & Engagement “Let’s Taco ‘Bout Cancer!” Webinar Series. We were able to share information and details about the Bag It bag and what is offered.
The doctor will “see you” now
Telehealth (A.K.A. telemedicine) has been around for a long time although many of us are experiencing our first “virtual visit” with our healthcare provider this year. This “live,” 2-way visit usually includes video and audio communication via high speed internet access using a mobile device, tablet, or computer with a web camera. Alternatively, a phone call using a landline telephone can also be considered a televisit.
While not a perfect substitute for in-person healthcare, most people find it to be less stressful, more efficient and less time-consuming, with no need to travel to an office or wait for their provider.
Certain types of appointments are better suited for telehealth such as primary care and follow-up visits, health screenings and wellness visits, medication management check-ins, and behavioral healthcare.
Most insurers have expanded coverage (including Medicare and Medicaid) for telehealth visits. Contact your provider to find out what telehealth options are available for your next appointment.
Making a Telehealth appointment:
- Contact your provider’s office to determine if a telehealth appointment is an option. In some cases you may be able to make the appointment online on their website.
- If you are not sure if televisits are covered by your insurer and your provider cannot confirm, call your insurance company or visit the website.
- If you are scheduled for a telehealth visit, the office provides an app they want you to download. It could be Zoom, Skype or another telehealth app used by their office. They usually send you the link and instructions by text or email in advance so you can download it beforehand.
- Ask if there are any medical records that your provider needs in advance of the appointment for the doctor’s review and determine how they will be sent.
Prepare for your appointment:
- Find a quiet (and ideally) private place indoors. Have light in front of you, not in back of you. Avoid sitting in front of a window as it could make it difficult for the doctor to see your face.
- Consider having someone join you as a scribe, another set of ears and to handle the camera if the provider wants to see you move or view a particular part of your body.
- Have a pen and paper handy to write down notes, instructions you are given, and answers to your questions.
- Write down your questions in advance and be clear on what your goal is for this appointment.
- Fill out any paperwork and gather any reports, health history, logs and other requested information. Forward to the provider if needed for review in advance, any symptoms or readings you’ve collected.
- Ensure your medication list is up to date and any allergies are noted. You can also place the medication bottles within reach to reference during the call. Have your pharmacy details handy.
- Don’t sit in front of a bright window as it can obscure your face on the provider’s camera. Avoid light behind you from windows or lamps.
- Download and test the app to be used during your appointment. Check the audio. Make sure your device is charged.
- If you are using Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or another accessible platform, you may want to practice before your appointment with your provider by using it during a social visit with a family member or friend.
- Keep the camera steady. If you are using a phone you may need to prop it up or use a stand.
- Turn off other streaming applications, music, notifications, etc. during the visit.
During the appointment:
- Seat yourself facing the screen so your face is in the center and fully visible with the camera at eye level.
- Open the app or platform a few minutes before the appointment time or at the time requested by the provider. You may be placed in a virtual ‘waiting room” until the provider is ready to see you.
- Before starting the visit your provider may ask for your consent to receive services through telehealth.
- Make sure you can hear the provider well and see their face if using video.
- Eliminate distractions such as other people, pets, devices. Do not eat or drink during the session.
- Your provider may ask you to move a certain part of your body, walk on camera, or move so the camera to examine a particular part of your body, depending on the nature of the visit.
- Be sure to ask your questions and write down the answers. If you don’t understand what is being said to you, ask for clarification before the call ends.
- Before the call ends, be sure you are clear on any recommendations given, prescriptions ordered and any additional or follow-up appointments or testing to be scheduled.
- Know how to reach your provider by phone or email between appointments.
When you have a question about something, where do you go to find out about it? Did you say “Google”? Okay, I know there are rebels out there, and some of you did not say google (*ahem* library development people, I’m looking at you). But for real, though, it is google, right? I love google. First of all, it’s just fun to say. And over the past few years, I’m pretty sure it’s become my second brain. But it does have a downside. It can lead me on a path to self-diagnosis and worst-case scenarios about something as small as a hangnail.
Now, imagine what happens when someone receives a cancer diagnosis. Is Google really the best place to turn for reliable and accurate information? And, yes, there are some wonderful organizations out there with excellent resources available online, but how do navigate the information without overwhelming yourself with all the possible negative outcomes? How do you know what to even look for?
Mindy Griffith is the Executive Director of BAG IT! Her organization educates, empowers, and connects cancer patients and their caregivers with the right information at the time when they need it most. The resources they create and curate not only provide a road map to help people navigate a cancer diagnosis, they also offer a step-by-step method for organizing necessary medical records throughout treatment.
Mindy also happens to be only the second Executive Director this organization has ever had, and so you know I had to ask her about how the transition went when the founder stepped down. I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised by Mindy’s journey from being an elementary school teacher to becoming the Executive Director of a small nonprofit in Tuscon, Arizona.
? Check out our Pinterest Board about resources from Bag It!
Mindy joined the Bag It team in 2016 as the Volunteer & Event Coordinator and was selected to be the Executive Director in April 2017.
With overall strategic and operational responsibility for Bag It and the Escape to Thrive programming, Mindy is responsible for the overall strategy and operations of the organization and is truly inspired to work with such a dynamic and committed group of individuals.
Mindy, previously an elementary school teacher and administrator, is passionate about education and the role of lifetime learning. A native of Ohio, Mindy moved to Arizona in 1998. While she loves to travel, she also loves having Tucson as her home.
? Connect with Bag It!
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Volunteering is a wonderful gift, however look what it can GIVE you
1. Volunteering will give you a sense of self-accomplishment.
Of course, volunteer work is doing good for the community around you. But, it can also make you feel good about yourself at the same time. When you help someone in need, it gives you a sense of accomplishment that can increase your self-confidence tremendously.
2. Volunteering improves your mental health.
Volunteering and helping others will make you a happier person in general and can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well being. Giving of your time and talents and doing something you love is great for your mental health. Volunteering for an organization you have an interest in and getting involved in your community will help you avoid depression and isolation – you will feel great about helping others. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection with others.
3. Volunteering brings fulfillment to your life.
It is important to balance life with the activities you love. Volunteering for an organization you have a genuine interest in is a relaxing escape from your busy schedule. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be relaxing and can give you an energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or other commitments. Changing up your schedule will leave you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision.
4. Volunteering helps develop new skills and improve current ones.
While motivating and inspiring you to work hard, volunteering can also help you develop your professional skills. Communication, project planning, and teamwork are all great skills to have – and all three are used in volunteering!
5. Volunteering connects you to others.
One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share common interests with you. Dedicating your time as a volunteer also helps you expand your network and practice social skills with others.
Do you want to add more meaning to your life?
Join a group of wonderful volunteers?
How about making a difference in the life of those impacted by cancer?
Then take the next step and become a Bag It volunteer!
For further information click here or contact Lisa Terrazas