Yes, You Can Visit Your Family Doctor!
Health Care In A PandemicRobert | Family Medicine Jun 9, 2020
The doors are open at UCHealth A.F. Williams Family Medicine in Denver.
But, things are different in the time of COVID-19. For example, some of the first things you will see walking through the door are signs and LOTS of them.
Wear a mask. Stand six feet apart.
It’s all part of the new normal in clinics here in Colorado and around the world as the health care profession welcomes patients back after months of lockdown.
“Our job, as we knew it, stopped,” said Corey Lyon, M.D.
Along with being a family physician, Dr. Lyon is an associate professor and associate vice chair for clinical affairs in the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine.
He says that the global pandemic hit fast and hit hard in clinic. One day he had patients – the next he didn’t.
“And, then a new way of just trying to move in the right direction came about,” said Lyon. “We have spacing. We have signage. Everybody has a mask.”
At first, Lyon says that all but the most emergent cases and patients were attended to online, via virtual visits. “It definitely was chaotic,” he said. “How was this going to work?”
In his clinical leadership position, Dr. Lyon had to do more than attend to his patients. He had to take care of his physician colleagues and help to calm their fears and find answers to their questions. How are the schedules going to look? How to do virtual visits?
Lyon says that it took them a while to get their feet underneath them during the rapid change, but now things are different. He says that they have more knowledge about COVID-19 and more certainty about how to deal with it. As a result, now it’s time to welcome patients back into clinics.
“The huge message that we are trying to get out there now is that just because we are dealing with this pandemic doesn’t mean that all health care stops. It’s still very important that they are getting their preventative services done,” said Lyon.
*** Screening for cancer and for diabetes to catch those early.
*** Standard immunizations for kids, (and their parents, too), to make sure that they are keeping up-to-date and healthy.
*** Chronic diseases don’t stop during a pandemic. It’s important that those are actively monitored and that medications are adjusted as needed.
*** Mental health support is, (probably more now than ever), important for individuals and their families to be able to access.
“Our goal to see patients in-clinic in a safe way – make them feel safe – providers feel safe,” Lyon added.
Right now, with the enhanced safety protocols in place, Dr. Lyon says that in-clinic patient volume is increasing. The goal by the end of June is to have a 50-50 split between patients cared for in-clinic and those seen online in virtual visits. Then, later in the summer, they hope to have in-clinic visits comprising 70% or more of total doctor-patient visits - being able to adjust the mix depending on the rate of COVID-19 infection.
Lyon says that virtual visits are here to stay. The challenge now is finding the new optimal balance of online versus in-person and making the most of the new-found opportunity through the crisis.
“It will potentially allow us to increase our growth because before we were confined by space availability but now we aren’t if we are able to do a lot virtually – so, maybe we can grow and give patients more choice because not all patients need to be seen in person,” he said.
Lyon says that one thing is for sure. The way things looked in early 2020 is not the way we’re going to look in late 2021. Still, he says he is anxious to recovering some of the personal touch that has been lost these past few months.
“I am hoping to get back to some more traditional ways of caring for patients because we are able to do more – make sure that we close any health gaps and make sure that we are aware of any health care disparities because we have a little bit more control over that patient encounter.”
Family Medicine Clinic Tips and Resources:
*** Find a Clinic and Provider.
*** Schedule your appointment online or over the phone.
*** Our health professionals will help you decide between a virtual and in-clinic visit based on what’s best for you.
*** If you come into the clinic, please bring a face covering.