In-person doctor appointments are safe, but virtual options might make you feel better

Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 18:43:16-04

While public events all over Northeast Ohio are postponed or canceled, many people across the region have previously-scheduled doctor appointments that doctors say are safe to keep.

Pediatrician Dr. Shelly Senders stresses it can actually be more harmful to cancel routine appointments.

“Not getting vaccinated, and not getting guidance on anxiety and depression and all of the major things that pediatricians deal with are actually more concerning,” said Senders.

Senders is not taking walk-in visits for now and patients with potential respiratory illnesses are being screened over the phone first.

He’s also taking three big steps to keep the building he works in safe and clean:

  • Treating the air as it circulates through the office to clean it.

He’s also taking three big steps to keep the building he works in safe and clean:

  • Converting office space into separated patient rooms where patients will enter through a different door and be seen by staff in protective gear who won’t cross over into the main part of the practice.
  • Visits for sick children who never leave their car, making sure they don’t come into the building at all.

“That’s one of the ways of really being able to reassure people that we’ve got their back,” said Senders.

The region’s larger hospital facilities are falling back on their virtual appointment systems.

MetroHealth is telling patients:

If you or a member of your family feel sick, call your doctor. Do not just show up at a hospital or health center. (If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.)

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. If your symptoms are mild, stay home and separate yourself from the other people in your home. If your respiratory symptoms get worse (a productive cough) call our nurse advice line at 216.778.5500, prompt #3.

Right now, we are testing for COVID-19 (coronavirus) only under specific limited circumstances.

Things are changing quickly. Rest assured that we are monitoring developments and working closely with health officials.

University Hospitals tells News 5 it has also seen a spike in telemedicine visits and it hopes to have every physician who wants to be available through video conference to be up and running soon.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Express Care online clinic has seen a large spike in patients asking for appointments over a video conference on their phone.

Executive Director Dr. Matthew Faiman says the online clinic normally sees about 100 patients over the course of 24 hours using a video conference application available for any smart phone. Since the coronavirus reached Cuyahoga County, the clinic is expecting to see as many as 400 people virtually in the same period.

“Now if you happen to be sick and you have a fever and a cough, we’d rather you not be around others,” said Faiman.

He says it’s also good peace of mind for well-patients who so they don’t have to risk picking up any kind of illness while in a waiting room.

If more medical attention is needed, that’s when Faiman says a patient can visit a medical facility in-person.

“So we’re not going to tell people not to do things if that’s what’s appropriate,” said Faiman.