June 11, 2020
This FAQ provides practical information for HR/benefits professionals to communicate to employees who may have questions about what to expect as hospitals, physician practices, dentists and other health care providers resume non-urgent health, dental and vision services in the wake of the pandemic. It provides practical information only. Employees should contact their doctor or other health care professional for clinical advice. Please see our COVID-19 page for additional resources on how employers can support their workforce.
Preventive and Routine Health Care FAQ
It depends on state and local government rules and health conditions in your area, as well as the prerogative of your health care provider. As states and localities pass their peak of expected number of COVID-19 cases, measured by sustained reductions in new cases and those reporting COVID-like symptoms for at least 14 consecutive days or by a similar metric, many health care providers are lifting restrictions on non-urgent, elective health care services that were curtailed due to the pandemic.
Aside from government rules, when to resume services is a decision that each provider makes based on their comfort level and their ability to protect their patients, staff and themselves. If providers have resumed scheduling non-urgent preventive and elective care in your area, contact your physician’s office or other provider to see if you can schedule your visit.
While some providers may be resuming in-person visits, others may only be offering virtual visits at this time and will ask if you are comfortable scheduling one. Remember, even if your physician had not previously offered virtual visits as an option, many are now making them available and will continue to do so. If your physician doesn’t mention that approach but the reason for your visit is conducive to a virtual encounter, you may want to ask if that option is available or whether an in-person visit is necessary.
Check with your provider or, if your company offers virtual visits with your company’s contracted telehealth provider. A virtual visit may be possible and appropriate for certain types of visits and services. Not all types of visits, however, can be virtual. Depending upon the volume of appointments, some providers have adopted virtual waiting rooms, where you will be asked to check in early to complete any remaining paperwork before your appointment.
If you do schedule a virtual visit, be sure to confirm the type (video, chat, phone, etc.) and the platform your provider will use in advance, as well as a backup plan, in case of technical difficulties on either end.
When you schedule your visit, you are likely to be asked a series of screening questions for COVID-19 symptoms. At that time or some time prior to your visit, confirm the process for arrival and entry to the office. You are likely to be required to wear a mask. The office may or may not have masks available for those not bringing their own. The staff and your provider may have masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE). The office may also have evening hours, restricted hours for the elderly and those at high risk or other restrictions to reduce the risk of exposure and spread of the virus. In many cases, you may be asked to wait outside or in your car until the office texts or calls you that the provider is ready for you. Also, inquire about whether or not you can have someone accompany you to the visit. To minimize risks of exposure, you may have to go alone unless you need assistance, or it is a pediatric visit.
Upon entry, the staff may take your temperature and ask screening questions again. You may also have to fill out paperwork with your responses to the screening questions. If your temperature is elevated or the screening indicates you may have COVID-19 symptoms, you are likely to be asked to reschedule your visit. If you have symptoms or have an elevated temperature on the day of your visit, contact your provider to reschedule it.
If you are not asked to wait outside or in your car, you may be required to keep at least 6 feet away from others in the waiting area and keep your mask on. You may be asked to use a hand sanitizer. There may be other requirements or restrictions as well.
If you had a visit scheduled for preventive care, a physical, allergy shots, a checkup or other routine care that was cancelled and routine services are resuming in your area, your provider’s office may contact you. If you have not heard from the office, call to see if you can reschedule your appointment. Your provider may have a care plan in place to prioritize procedures, which may require you to wait longer.
While many hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers may resume operations, certain procedures, including endoscopy and surgery, require significant use of PPE and pose additional risks of transmission to clinicians. Your provider and local facility may resume some procedures but not all, especially if they are non-urgent. Check with your provider.
You will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and risk prior to your surgery. You will also likely need to take a preoperative test for COVID-19 and self-quarantine prior to your surgery. You also may be asked to practice social distancing and wear a mask where appropriate during self-quarantine. You will be asked to report any close contact with someone confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, anyone exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19, or if you have symptoms.
Yes. Your non-urgent visit, procedure or elective surgery may be postponed or rescheduled to a later date if there is a setback and the number of COVID-19 cases increases in your area, your provider may decide that risks have increased, or the state or locality may reinstate a ban on non-urgent and elective care. The situation in your locality depends not only on trends in COVID-19 cases, but also on the supply of PPE and the ability of your provider to conduct visits virtually. Contact your provider a few days before to check on the status of your appointment if the situation changes in your area.
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