Aging Well

Aging Well

What to expect when you (finally) go to the doctor again

Posted May 20, 2020 1:56 p.m. EDT

The new normal at doctors' offices

Primary care physician offices typically get a lot of traffic (over 477 million visits/year). However, there has only been a tiny fraction since the Governor issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state on March 27.

As North Carolina moves towards Phase 2 of its three-phase plan to reopen, many who have not left home since then are concerned about exposure when they finally do, They are especially worried about settings where there is a higher risk, such as doctors' offices. After all, people spend an average of 18 minutes in the waiting room.

Doctors' offices have been putting in place a number of requirements in order to prevent spread. Here is what you should expect to see:

  1. Expect to be asked a series of questions to determine your risk profile.
  2. Expect someone will take your temperature, too, whether you are at high risk of being infected or not.
  3. If you are at high risk of being infected or appear symptomatic, there will be a protocol for keeping you from infecting others (i.e., there may be a separate entrance and waiting room).
  4. Expect to see hand sanitizer when you enter the building and also in the waiting room and exam rooms.
  5. The receptionists, as well as all visitors should wear a mask. If you do not have a mask, the receptionist will likely provide one (or may expect you to wait outside, if one is not available).
  6. There will be tape marking how close you may stand when waiting to check in.
  7. Waiting room chairs will be spaced out according to guidelines, too. The office may also have additional waiting rooms to prevent crowding.
  8. You will not see magazines or clip boards or other materials which may pass the virus.
  9. Cleaning will occur more frequently between visitors.

You can also play an important role by:

  1. Wearing an appropriate mask correctly.
  2. Not touching your face.
  3. Covering your cough.
  4. Sanitizing your hands after you have touched something that may have coronavirus. Commonly touched items include door knobs, elevator buttons, magazines or newspapers left behind, armrests on the waiting room chairs, or button on the vending machine.
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