Providing Safe Care During the Crisis
Hello to all who read this! As we all know by now, we are in a pandemic the likes of which has not been seen since the Swine Flu of 1918. As I write this, I have seen the news that Kurt Barwis, CEO of Bristol Health, has been diagnosed with Coronavirus infection and is self-quarantining for 14 days. He will need to test negatively twice before being able to return to the hospital. I wish him, his family, and all those at Bristol Hospital well as they help the community respond to this devastating disease.
I hope all of you are practicing social distancing, hand washing, and following the other precautions we all need to follow to reduce the chance of catching and spreading Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). I hope you and those close to you are well; if someone close to you has tested positive or shown symptoms of Covid, I hope they are receiving appropriate care. If you or someone you know suspects they may be infected, you should contact your primary care provider or a local hospital. Most hospitals offer online and telephone options for screening. You can also email the office; I am able to order testing at Bristol Hospital. A note of caution: I will subject you to the same screening questions as would any other provider, and may not end up approving testing for you.
How I Am Providing Care Now
I have been seeing patients exclusively via telemedicine for the last week. I am offering care for general health concerns, and am integrating counseling to help manage stress. I am also welcoming new patients, who can also be seen through telemedicine visits. Optimantra, my electronic health records system, offers a video chat feature that is HIPAA-compliant and easy to use. I will be emailing a link to all my scheduled patients that allows you to sign on to the chat.
Your email will include this text:
You will be able to access the video chat page under the Patient Portal.
Please click on the following link and use your portal credentials to log in: https://www.optimantra.com/optimus/om/patient/welcome?getvideo=true&room=
Each patient will have a unique Meeting ID# which will allow you to join a chat each time you have an appointment. This feature works on smartphones and on laptops/macs. For best audio you can plug in a headset or use the speaker and mic on your device — bluetooth is not acceptable for privacy purposes.
My office hours remain the same, with one exception: I am opening up Saturday morning hours for any who need a weekend time.
If you have an upcoming appointment, you can keep your scheduled time. I will continue to have office visits for new and existing patients.
Telemedicine and Covid-19: Are Your Visits Covered?
Simply put, the US Government has set a policy that encourages doctors to provide care through video or phone call. Privacy restrictions have been relaxed in some cases (Face Time, Zoom and other videoconferencing apps are now approved for health care under the current circumstances.
These changes automatically apply to Medicare, and private insurers are mostly following suit. All the insurance companies have temporary policies allowing billing for telemedicine. Your visits will be covered, in some cases with no copay or deductible. I am navigating these changes as are all other caregivers; I am learning as I go, so please bear with me!
How to Prepare For Your Visit
If you are a new patient, you will have a chance to complete your demographic and health history intake prior to your first visit. If you are an existing patient, the process will be the same as in face-to-face visits. I would encourage anyone in the weight loss program or seeking help with lowering blood pressure to check your weight (and, if you have a cuff, your blood pressure) before the visit.
Supplements, Lab Testing, and Other Details
You can order supplements by emailing the office. My Signature Supplements are available either for pickup in my mailbox (I am placing each order in its own sealed bag) or by mail. I can also include any other supplements you normally take in a pickup order. You can also open an account through Fullscript or Wellevate, my online dispensaries, to receive your non-Signature supplements.
Testing is still available at Quest, KBMO, and the other laboratories. Ultrasounds and other imaging testing can be ordered. I discourage patients from getting any testing at this time that is not time-sensitive or critical.
Faxes will be checked on a regular basis. If you have urgent information that needs to be conveyed via fax, let me know and I will make sure it is read.
Supporting Those On the Front Lines
Healthcare workers are on the front lines now, working in dangerous environments and putting themselves at risk to help their patients. Many are working without adequate protective equipment. Here in Hartford County, we are in much better shape than in New York City and other “hot spots”, but our hospitals are still facing shortages. This link offers ways to help.
Police, firefighters, grocery store and other retail workers are providing essential services while putting themselves at additional risk. Restaurant staff and delivery people are also at increased risk as they prepare food to make us feel comforted. Many are buying gift certificates from restaurants and other service providers to help them through this challenging time.
Signing Off for Now: Much More to Come
I hope this and future newsletters and blog posts will inform, empower and give some comfort to all of you as we face this epochal challenge. My next newsletter will come out in the next few days and offer tips on managing stress and eating well.
I look forward to seeing you at our next visit. Please reach out if you have any questions.