VA Doctor's Appointments: How to Stay Safe During Corona Virus Pandemic
With the current state of the world and its hospital environments during the Coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense to want to follow the “Shelter in Place” orders and skip your medical appointment at a Department of Veteran’s Affairs facility in order to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Maybe you have a bad cough and other cold symptoms yourself, or you’re worried about the symptoms of the other patients you might encounter. Either way, you may be unsure about how to proceed.
As a veteran, the desire and responsibility to protect the ones around you probably comes naturally to you. But you shouldn’t forget to take care of yourself as well!
Depending on the reason for your medical appointment, you should understand your options fully in order to move forward with caution. The following is a list of tips to help you navigate your upcoming medical appointments during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Refill or renew your prescriptions online or over the phone. If the reason for your visit is to fill or renew your prescriptions, it might be better to handle this online or over the phone. Ordering online is a pretty simple process. Even if your prescription has run out of refills, you can call your doctor and explain the extenuating circumstances so he/she can authorize another refill for you. It usually takes a week or so to receive your prescription in the mail, so make sure you plan ahead and account for the time it will take to arrive.
- Consider going to a different location. If your appointments are typically at a larger hospital in the city, it might be wise to consider changing locations for the time being. Veterans have the option to choose from 1,074 outpatient clinics, most of which offer most of the same medical services as a larger hospital. This option may also allow you to stay closer to home, which is highly suggested during this time, as many of these clinics are located in smaller neighborhoods, as opposed to big cities. You might have better luck getting an appointment at an outpatient VA clinic, as opposed to a big hospital due to the heavy influx of Coronavirus patients. Also, consider looking into making an appointment with a civilian provider.
- When in doubt, reschedule. If your appointment is not urgent, it is best to reschedule. Hospitals are experiencing a major increase in the amount of patients. Your doctor will most likely be relieved to have one less patient to worry about at the moment. Be sure to contact your local VA medical center to reschedule. It is not a good idea to just not show up to your appointment, especially if it is for an examination for your disability rating. We’ll go into greater detail on this later.
- Opt for an online appointment instead. In select locations, veterans can access health care online through live chats and live video conferencing. If you have this option available to you through your healthcare provider or location, it is probably the best way to receive medical services right now given the circumstances. You can learn more about online services on the VA website. A couple examples of online services like this include the following.
- VA Health Chat. This online service is only available to veterans living in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and allows veterans to manage appointments, refill prescriptions, and chat online with healthcare professionals to efficiently receive answers to their questions and concerns.
- VA Video Connect. This option is available worldwide, however your health care team may not be using it just yet. VA Video Connect allows you to video chat live with health care professionals from any device (your phone, laptop, iPad, desktop computer, etc) as long as it has a camera and internet connection.
Remember, don’t forget to contact the VA first if you plan to reschedule or cancel your appointment. This is especially important if the appointment you’re missing or postponing is for an examination for a disability rating.
Failure to communicate regarding your appointment for a disability rating can result in your rating being reduced or canceled. You might even have to start the entire process over again if you miss your disability rating exam. This can be avoided however by calling the VA to alert them of your rescheduling due to the shelter in place orders, your concerns of visiting a hospital, or whatever the reason may be.
The bottom line is to use common sense. If you’re feeling terribly sick, you should probably keep your appointment. If possible, try to have it moved to a smaller hospital or outpatient clinic.
Above all else, just make sure to be careful and practice the necessary safety measures to keep yourself healthy. Wash your hands regularly and keep your distance from as many people as you can.
If you are able to refill your prescription over the phone or online, it is safer to do so right now. A quick call to your primary physician can help make this an easier process.
Again, make sure to contact the medical office and VA if you plan to cancel or reschedule. Most doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are extremely busy at this time. You don’t want to waste their time by making them wait around for you at the time of your appointment only to discover that you aren’t coming in. They could be using that time to help another person that is seriously ill.
In the end, we all must continue to do our part to flatten the curve of this pandemic. By staying home, we can protect the people around us and slow the spread of COVID-19.