May 27, 2020
For adults, primary care is all about preventing problems down the road, but some patients may be putting off care these days over fears of being exposed to COVID-19.
“I think it’s a lot safer to come to the doctor’s office than to go to the grocery store right now,” SolutionHealth’s Stephanie Ballentine, APRN, at Foundation Adult Medicine for Southern New Hampshire Health System, explains.
Ballentine’s office reopened recently after having been closed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. For several weeks, they were only providing care through telemedicine. But now, with proper safety precautions in place, they have returned to offering in-person appointments.
Across SolutionHealth, staff and providers are wearing masks at all times. Hand sanitizing and hand washing is always important but is now in triplicate. As Ballentine explains, “We just want to reassure people when they come into the office, that it’s safe, and we are available.”
A limited number of appointments are being scheduled throughout the day. Each appointment is spread out to give staff time to clean everything before the next appointment. When patients arrive, they go straight into an exam room and skip the waiting room.
If patients don’t feel comfortable scheduling an in-office visit, telemedicine is still available. Using labs and imaging testing which are always available, Ballentine says she has treated a variety of problems, including headaches, back pain, some rashes, and anxiety/depression. But she stresses, “Any kind of emergency care should definitely not be put off. The emergency rooms are very safe.”
Since the pandemic started, Ballentine says she has seen an increase in patients calling to establish care with a primary care provider. “I feel the COVID-19 pandemic has focused health care at the forefront of people’s minds. Many people have realized that they do need a medical provider to go to,” she explains. She says immediate care and emergency rooms are ideal for after-hours or emergency illness but are just not intended to provide preventative care and manage chronic conditions.
While you may be stuck at home social distancing, Ballentine is reminding patients that vaccines are still a must. She recommends that adult patients consult with their primary care provider to ensure they are up to date. There have been co-infections with influenza and pneumonia in many COVID-19 patients. “I hope people will be especially diligent with their flu vaccines this year, as well as the pneumonia vaccine for at-risk individuals – these include people over age 65, smokers, asthmatics, and patients with other lung diseases,” Ballentine explains.