Navigating Your Healthcare Needs During the Pandemic

Posted on

Apr 24, 2020

Navigating Your Healthcare Needs During the Pandemic
By Ailene Gerhardt, MA, BCPA, Founder, Beacon Patient Solutions LLC April 15, 2020
Does this snapshot of an appointment calendar resonate with you?
Annual Physical: Rescheduled
6 Month Dental Cleaning: Rescheduled
3 Month Follow Up with PCP: Rescheduled
This Months Physical Therapy appointments: Canceled, Online Resources Suggested
Weekly Behavioral Health Therapy Appointment: Changed to Video or Phone Call, Teletherapy
Navigating our own healthcare needs at this time when the system is extremely stressed can be challenging. Many routine appointments are canceled, postponed, or rescheduled. However, there are healthcare needs related to the monitoring of chronic conditions or illnesses, or specific diagnoses that would not be beneficial to postpone or reschedule.
While it is critical to leave space for the treatment of COVID-19 throughout the healthcare system and crucial that, when possible, we stay home to reduce the spread of the virus, it is also important NOT to delay or ignore other medical needs or conditions. (Please rely on these resources and action steps should you suspect you have COVID-19) During this uncertain time, when everyone is adjusting to new ways of delivering care, dont assume that your healthcare provider isnt available. Make sure to check in with them, describe your concerns or your symptoms and ask how they can maintain monitoring of a chronic illness or condition.
For example:
If you need lab work to monitor your chronic condition during this time, how does that occur safely?
If you need to continue physical therapy appointments is your therapist available via video sessions or can they direct you to useful online resources?
Before assuming you are not able to receive the care you have been, reach out to your provider to ask what they recommend. Then weigh your benefits and risks and make an informed decision. It is important to maintain your health during this time.
Heres how to advocate for yourself, loved one, or friend:
Involve a friend or family member in your appointment via telehealth or in person. Ask for that person (whether in your home or elsewhere) to participate in teleconference and video meetings. Ask that person to take notes for you, just as they would sitting in a doctors office or on the telephone.
Evaluate your Needs: For Example: Is your dental cleaning needed now to avoid future gum damage? Do you feel your body/gait compensating for your weak right knee because you are not keeping up a regular physical therapy routine? Do you need to have your blood work completed to make sure your anemia is being controlled?
o Is whatever you feel you need needed right now or is it safer to wait? If waiting is going to contribute to making your health worse in the future ask your provider how your needs can be assessed/treated safely?
Navigating Your Healthcare Needs During the Pandemic, Beacon Patient Solutions LLC (617) 651-2140 page 2 of 3
o Remember, you are an expert about your own body. If you feel something isnt right be honest with your provider.
It is always important to prepare for a health appointment. During this time, when providers are feeling stretched and stressed, it is crucial to be prepared.
Heres how to make sure you get the most from an upcoming appointment:
Make a written prioritized list of concerns and specific questions. Ask your provider if you can send a summary of concerns to them ahead of time via the patient portal so that your appointment time can be maximized.
Make sure your medication and supplement list (medication, dose) is current and know exactly what medications need to be refilled or what changes need to be called in
Focus on effective communication: Be clear, succinct, and assertive as needed remembering that your provider trying to deliver the best care they can. Make sure to listen to what information your provider offers.
Things to Consider While Using Telehealth:
Become familiar with telehealth software ahead of the appointment, ask someone to explain it to you
Have anything you may need during your appointment (device, medications, blood sugar / blood pressure logs) with you at the computer
If you need vitals for your appointment, ask how to provide that (do you have a thermometer, blood pressure kit at home?)
Wear clothing that is easy to maneuver if you want to show the provider something during the appointment
During Your Appointment:
o If you can record appointment via phone or video
o For medication refills and changes to prescriptions
o If you can follow up with summary to confirm discussion
o How your provider is responding to inquiries (portal, calls, email, text)? How quickly can you expect to hear back?
o What is the safety protocol should you need to come into the office?
Become familiar with online health portals for all your providers. The electronic health records do not all communicate with each other so make sure you are set up with all relevant portals and record all username names and passwords in your personal health record.
Make sure all your paperwork is organized and you are familiar with it and can access it quickly during your appointment.
Due to the volume of patients needing care during the pandemic, many hospitals and facilities are not allowing patients to be accompanied. This is a challenge for everyone since the patient will not have a loved one/friend to advocate for them bedside. It will be hard for healthcare providers to know who to reach out to regarding important decisions should the patient be incapacitated. You can help.
Navigating Your Healthcare Needs During the Pandemic, Beacon Patient Solutions LLC (617) 651-2140 page 3 of 3
Make sure you have a go plan and bag should hospitalization be necessary.
What to Include in a Go Plan and Bag:
Organized Paperwork (Personal Health Record):
o Name, Blood Type, Allergies, Emergency Contact name, relationship and contact information
o A current copy of your Drivers License, Insurance card / Medicare/Medicaid card, Supplemental Insurance Card front and back
o Medical Summary: Conditions & Timeline of Procedures
o Completed current HIPAA releases, Healthcare Proxy, Advance Directive Documents
o Instructive summary about you: include instructions about a condition that requires medication at specific intervals/on specific days and what you take, how often and what happens if it is missed. Also include a mention of glasses/hearing aids and/or mobility devices you need for activities of daily life.
Phone/Tablet chargers, hearing aid batteries / chargers, extra glasses
Basic toiletries
Extra socks, underwear
Disinfecting wipes / hand sanitizer
Notebook, pens, clipboard
Make sure your emergency contact(s) has/have copies of all documents you bring with you and easy access to advance care plan documents such as HIPAA releases, healthcare proxy, living will, etc.
View our blog post: what to include in your personal health record for more details
While there is a lot of uncertainty currently, we can take control of preparing for our healthcare appointments. We can also prepare for an emergency by having our records and important documents organized and up to date. Having basic items gathered in the event of a hospital stay will also make things easier at a time of extreme stress.

Connect With Us: When the complexity of your healthcare situation is too challenging to navigate on your own working with an independent board certified patient advocate can help cut through the red tape and reduce complications at an emotional time. Contact Ailene to learn more about the value of working with a private patient advocate

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