Why Going Back to the Doctor Matters
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 that Rhode Island and other states are reopening, many doctors’ offices and other healthcare facilities have already begun to offer 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 doctor and other healthcare providers.
1. Make sure your children receive vaccinations.
The number of children having well visits has dropped significantly since March. This has resulted in delays in vaccinations, putting children at risk for serious diseases such as measles and mumps.1 During well visits, providers also screen children for other health issues and track their growth and development. These well visits, including the vaccinations, are offered at no cost under your BCBSRI health plan when your child sees an in-network provider.
2. Have preventive cancer screenings.
Having routine cancer screenings can help find cancer early, when it is more treatable. This includes mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and Pap tests. Talk to your primary care provider (PCP) about which screenings you should have and when. Your PCP can also recommend where you should have the screening done. These preventive care screenings are often offered at no cost when you see an in-network provider.
3. 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. If you are undergoing care for cancer and had to postpone treatment, find out when you can resume care.
4. Don’t delay care in an emergency.
Since March, emergency rooms have seen a steep decline in the number of people seeking treatment, and doctors are concerned that people are not seeking potentially life-saving care for heart attacks, strokes, and other conditions.1 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.
5. Talk to your providers about telehealth.
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. BCBSRI has temporarily expanded coverage so you can receive treatment over the phone or virtually—such as through telehealth—from in-network providers (including dentists) with no copays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing, when clinically appropriate.2 You can also receive care virtually through BCBSRI Doctors Online3 if that service is available with your plan. BCBSRI Doctors Online can be used for common, non-emergency health issues 24/7 as well as for scheduled therapy sessions and psychiatry visits. Doctors Online is also temporarily covered at 100%.2
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. Children under age 2 should not wear a face mask. Providers will wear personal protective equipment.
- 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 toys 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.
1Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020
2Not all employers have chosen to offer this benefit without cost share. Please check with your employer to see if this temporary benefit is available under your plan.
3In 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.