Why Going Back to the Doctor Is Important
During the height of the pandemic, many doctors’ offices and healthcare facilities had postponed care that was not related to COVID-19 or was not an emergency. This helped ensure that there was capacity to care for COVID-19 patients and helped preserve supplies, such as masks and ventilators.
Now many doctors’ offices and other healthcare facilities are offering all types of healthcare services, including preventive care, ongoing care for chronic health conditions, and surgeries that were postponed. They have put many precautions in place to help keep you safe. (See “Keeping you safe” later in the article for details.)
If you are going back to the doctor’s office or are feeling unsure about doing so, here are important things to know and to discuss with your PCP and other healthcare providers.
1. Have regular preventive screenings.
Having regular screenings can help prevent health issues or help treat them in earlier stages. Talk with your PCP about how often to have your vision, blood pressure, hearing, and blood sugar checked. Your PCP can also help you determine what preventive cancer screenings, such as a colonoscopy, you may need. Many of these preventive services are covered at no cost, including:
- $0 routine vision exam
- $0 routine hearing exam
- $0 preventive cancer screenings
- $0 annual well visit
2. Get care for ongoing health conditions.
If you see your PCP or specialist regularly to manage conditions such as diabetes, asthma, congestive heart failure, or depression, be sure to follow up and see if you need to schedule a visit. Not receiving the care you need could lead to health complications. Many services for ongoing conditions are covered at no cost under your plan.
3. Don’t delay care in an emergency.
If you feel your health is in serious jeopardy, do not hesitate to call 911 or go to the emergency room. You should go to the emergency room for symptoms such as difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain, heavy bleeding, suicidal thoughts, or suddenly feeling weak or drooping on one side of the body.
4. Have needed vaccinations.
In addition to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you, there are other important vaccines that you may need as well, including a pneumonia vaccine and an annual flu vaccine. Ask your PCP if you are up-to-date on all your vaccinations.
5. Talk to your providers about telemedicine.
For certain health issues, you can receive care from your provider over the phone or by video. Ask your provider if that is an option for any treatment that you need. You have $0 coverage for clinically appropriate video and phone visits from certain primary care and behavioral health providers, including in-network primary care providers, clinical psychologists, registered dietitians, and clinical social workers.
During the public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, you also temporarily have telemedicine benefits for select other providers at the same cost share you would pay for an in-person visit. These providers include specialists, chiropractors, urgent care centers, retail-based clinics, and diabetes educators. If your plan requires a referral to see a specialist, you’ll need to get that referral for telemedicine visits as well as in-person visits.
In addition to the telemedicine benefits above, you have $0 visits through BCBSRI Doctors Online.* BCBSRI Doctors Online can be used for common, non-emergency health issues 24/7 as well as for scheduled therapy sessions and psychiatry visits.
Keeping you safe
To protect you from COVID-19, your provider’s office and other healthcare facilities may be taking the following precautions:
- Screening patients for COVID-19
Before you enter a healthcare facility, you may have your temperature taken and/or be asked questions about your health status.
- Requiring face masks
A face mask can help reduce your risk of getting or spreading disease. Providers will wear personal protective equipment during an exam.
- Separating patients with COVID-19 symptoms from other patients
This may include having separate entrances, separate exam rooms, and even separate providers dedicated to caring for patients with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Keeping patients socially distant while waiting
Sometimes you will be asked to wait in your car until your visit. Waiting rooms should have chairs spaced far apart to keep you and others safe. Magazines and other items may also be removed from waiting areas.
- Sanitizing exam rooms between visits
This helps reduce the spread of germs. Providers may schedule telehealth visits between in-person visits to allow more time for cleaning.
- Limiting visitors or people who go to your appointment with you
Try to limit visitors or the people who accompany you to visits to one person (if allowed). Visitors should also wear a face mask.
- Encouraging handwashing
Wash your hands often by using soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if washing your hands is not possible.
For more information and resources related to COVID-19, please see our Keeping You Well and Well-Informed site.
*In the case of an emergency, you should always call 911. Doctors Online is not intended to replace these services and should not be used in those circumstances. Doctors Online is a telemedicine service provided by American Well®, an independent company that administers Doctors Online on behalf of BCBSRI.