Get your medical appointments back on track during COVID-19

Woman scheduling an appointment on the phone 

From work to school to Friday night entertainment, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly thrown us off our routines. In many ways it feels like we’re living in another dimension, one where the calendar plays by different rules. We’ve had to forgo a lot of rituals we used to mark the passage of time: morning coffee runs, weekly gatherings for religious services, haircuts every few months.

You might also have fallen behind on your doctor visits and checkups—but this is one ritual you should reestablish as soon as possible.

Managing chronic diseases is key right now, as they can be major risk factors for complications related to COVID-19. But it’s also important to seek preventive care such as cancer screenings and flu vaccinations. Just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean people aren’t getting routine diseases.   

If you’ve skipped an appointment or two, I know it can be awkward to restart your care, kind of like reaching out to a friend with whom you’ve fallen out of touch. Maybe you’ve let some calls from your doctor’s office go to voicemail. There can be some mental hurdles to getting back on track.

The simplest advice is to just pick up the phone right now and make the call. But if that’s not working for you, here are a few other ways to reengage with your care.

  • Do it first thing tomorrow morning. Make a list of everything you’re dreading, and if calling your doctor is something you consider to be particularly daunting, challenge yourself to put it on top.
  • Use patient portal tools such as MyChart. This way you can contact your provider after hours or schedule an appointment online. I find this particularly useful at the end of the day, when you’re lacking the mental energy to reach out or when your doctor’s office is closed.
  • Consider alternative appointment options. COVID-19 precautions have led to a boom in telehealth visits, which means seeing your doctor might mean never leaving your home. There are plenty of options for patients who are worried about COVID-19 exposure or unable to take time out of their day to travel to their doctor’s office.

Above all, I’d advise you not to overthink it. But if you’ve read this far, it’s probably too late. In that case, I’ll leave you with one last thought: No matter what, we’re going to have to resume taking care of ourselves—because unfortunately, we’re in it for the long haul with COVID-19.

Seuli Brill is an internist and pediatrician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and an associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

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