Written by Melissa Bean Sterzick
As we have practiced isolation to decrease the transmission of COVID-19,
many non-urgent doctor’s office visits have been cancelled or delayed.
Some individuals have postponed appointments or have avoided going to
the doctor, but it is safe to go to the doctor's office as urgent
and many regular visits can be scheduled. Virtual appointments will continue
and are a good option in some circumstances. Robert Glazer, MD, is the
medical director of Torrance Memorial Physician Network. He answered a
few questions about what doctor visits will look like in the days ahead.
Is it safe to visit my primary care physician?
Dr. Robert Glazer: Yes. During the shelter-in-place order, some offices
were simply closed while others offered limited access. While emergency
departments always remain open and emergent surgeries performed, all elective
visits, procedures and surgeries were cancelled or postponed. We are progressing
in our knowledge of mitigating risk to our patients and staff, and we
now feel comfortable making the office more available for face-to-face
encounters. Our offices have taken measures to ensure both patient and
medical staff safety, such as taking temperatures upon entering an office,
and limiting the number of people in the reception, waiting and patient
examination areas. All health care staff and patients must wear masks,
and exam rooms are disinfected after each patient leaves.
Is it a good idea to go to the doctor’s office or other medical service offices such as imaging centers or labs?
RG: All outpatient centers on the Torrance Memorial campus are taking the
precautions listed above. The doctors are concerned that necessary ongoing
and preventative care have been delayed or postponed because of the shelter-in-place
policy, and there can be unhealthy ramifications because of this. We intend
to help our patients catch back up in our offices,
and certain patients can go back to regular doctor visits.
What about alternatives to face-to-face visits with the doctor?
RG: Our clinics have instituted Telehealth, which are online, virtual visits.
Most chronic health conditions, and some acute ones, can be addressed
during these virtual discussions. Nothing can truly take the place of
the face-to-face visit, but this has demonstrated to be an excellent substitute.
We are using Telehealth to complete the very important Medicare Senior
Wellness Exams (even by phone, for those without WiFi). Our mental health
colleagues are finding Telehealth services particularly suited for emotional
issues. Although, Telehealth cannot replace all visits, we will continue
to integrate virtual visits as appropriate during this time. Routine appointments
for annual screenings, mammograms, colonoscopies and other procedures
are still advisable. Follow the advice of your physician.
What types of regular checkups should patients schedule now?
RG: All types of regular checkups should be scheduled. Distancing requirements
and the need to protect vulnerable groups, for now, necessitate discretion
as to who should come into the office at this time. For this reason, and
to ensure the safety of all, please follow the advice of your physician
or physician's office on whether your appointment should be in person
or a virtual Telehealh visit. Right now we are fully-operational, procedures
and elective surgeries are currently being scheduled, and we are allowing
patients who require preoperative clearance into the offices. Also, since
patients who are having significant pain or have had an injury need to
be physically examined, these patients are being scheduled in the office.
If there is concern, the doctor’s office can speak with patients
ahead of time to determine what would be in the patient’s best interest.
When will there be open access to medical offices?
RG: All essential services are currently available to patients. Factors
that will help us determine the safety of providing even more access to
medical offices will be viral infection rates, advice from the public
health entities and recommendations from our infectious disease leaders
at Torrance Memorial. The most important thing for our patients to remember
is to not ignore or delay the care they need.
What measures are being taken to ensure a safe face-to face doctor visit?
RG: Doctor’s offices already have strict protocols for hygiene and
disinfecting surfaces. In addition, they will be keeping up with new recommendations
offered by the CDC. Some offices will see fewer patients in order to create
more space, and all offices have already rearranged their waiting areas.
We are learning more about COVID-19 every week, and any new precautions
will be added to our protocols accordingly.
What can the patient do to make a visit to the doctor’s office safer?
RG: Speak with your doctor’s office to familiarize yourself with
how you can prepare for the visit ahead of time. Wear a mask, but if you
don’t have a mask, one will be provided for you. If you are feeling
any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath or cold symptoms),
call before your arrival and ask about the office’s policy and ability
to accommodate you. If you need the assistance of a caretaker, or if the
patient is a child, please bring only one caretaker. When you arrive at
the doctor’s office, cooperate with entry procedures and answer
all questions about your health, exposure and travel honestly.
Note: If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or need to speak
with a doctor, please contact your primary care doctor or call our physician
referral coordinator at 310-891-6717. Our Emergency Department is prepared
and capable of safely handling all emergency needs during this time.
Robert Glazer, MD, is medical director of Torrance Memorial Physician Network.
He practices at 3333 Skypark Drive, Suite 100 in Torrance. He can be reached