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ROCKY MOUNT — As COVID-19 continues to spread through North Carolina communities, local medical practices and hospitals are taking extraordinary measures to ensure non-COVID patients can continue to seek medical treatment without exposure to patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
The Boice-Willis Clinic is one of many local practices that’s changed its operations to continue providing medical care.
Dr. Linda Basset Shaftoe is an internal medicine physician at the Boice-Willis Clinic and said she’s most concerned about her patients with chronic conditions not showing up for continuing care appointments.
“The chronic conditions I am concerned about keeping up with are diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, COPD, thyroid disease, chronic kidney disease, asthma, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia,” Bassett Shaftoe said. “Monitoring of glucose, blood pressure, thyroid function, blood tests, cholesterol, and kidney function should continue.”
Bassett Shaftoe said some aspects of this continuing care can be provided by remote visits.
“However, listening to a heart or lungs as well as an appropriate abdominal exam cannot be done over the computer. We are also concerned about a patient following up with their regular preventative maintenance such as mammograms and colonoscopies as well as vaccinations for adults,” she added.
Bassett Shaftoe said if a patient develops new symptoms, it’s especially important that his or her provider is notified sooner rather than later.
“We want to help patients avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. Patients do not realize that when they go to the emergency room, the doctor’s main job there is to make sure that there is nothing life-threatening and determine whether the patient needs admission. If the patient does not need admission and it is not life-threatening, it is not actually the emergency room doctor’s job to make the diagnosis and treat it,” Bassett Shaftoe said. “This is the job of their provider. If a patient comes to the primary care physician sooner, hopefully we can prevent an admission or worse.”
Bassett Shaftoe added: “If you are not certain what to do, call your provider’s office.”
Assuring patients it is safe to continue with in-office health care is proving to be an important part of advice medical staff need to communicate to patients. It’s important for physicians to properly treat chronic diseases while easing patients’ anxiety.
Lindy Williams, executive administrator at the Boice-Willis Clinic, says staffers have listened to their patients’ concerns and implemented new procedures to keep non-COVID-19 patients safe from potential infection.
The Boice-Willis Clinic has increased cleaning measures and other processes throughout the practice.
“In addition to extraordinary sanitizing efforts, our health care workers are required to document their temperature twice a day,” Williams said. “We have also asked our staff to wear a mask for everyone’s safety and we ask our patients to do the same.”
The clinic says it’s vital for patients with chronic conditions to continue receiving medical care during remote visits or in-office visits.
Some new intake protocols patients may encounter at Boice-Willis and other medical practices include:
• The office will communicate with you before your appointment to ask you screening questions.
• There are no longer magazines or toys available in waiting areas, as those can be difficult to disinfect.
• Appointments will be managed to allow for social distancing between patients and you may notice fewer scheduling options.
• You will be asked to wear a face covering upon arriving to your appointment, while waiting, during your appointment when possible and as you’re leaving.
• Patients, guardians and caregivers are limited to one person during the time of visit, and they too must wear face coverings.
• You may notice a change in the arrival process. Changes might include taking your temperature before entering the building and waiting in your vehicle until a health care worker calls you.