Access to Baptist Health: All Your Questions Answered

During this time of COVID-19 self-quarantine, it’s natural to feel nervous about returning to your regular doctor’s visits. You’re not alone in trying to determine the right time to schedule that needed diagnostic test, yearly exam, or physical therapy consult. You may be unsure about what procedures or surgeries can wait, or if your appointment can be handled virtually. Or, you might wonder what your physician’s office is doing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep patients safe. Rest-assured, Baptist Health understands these questions and worries, and will provide you with guidance every step of the way.

How we are supporting Patient Safety

Members of our operations team are working with each of our clinics and hospitals to ensure we have measures in place to support the safety of our patients and staff, while balancing the ongoing need to provide care in a timely manner.  The approach to bringing back patients at “full load” in our Baptist Health clinics will be a gradual approach so that we support patient safety above all else.

For your and other’s safety, we will continue screening all patients/visitors for symptoms prior to coming in for an in-person office visit – at the time of scheduling, 24 hours in advance of visit via phone call, and at the point of entry, with the goal of keeping any patient with COVID-19 symptoms from coming to our clinics in person. For patients with COVID-19 symptoms, we will refer you to schedule an Urgent Care Video Visit through Baptist Health Virtual Care or redirect you to an Urgent Care Evaluation site as appropriate.

In addition to screening for symptoms at the hospital or clinic point of entry, we require all patients/visitors to wear masks upon entry. Please bring your own mask for your (and others’) safety. Visitor restrictions are also in place to support both patient and visitor safety during this time. Learn more about these visitor restrictions here. We’ve also implemented non-traditional waiting options such as patients waiting in vehicles and being notified when staff is ready, or ensuring that we have appropriate physical distancing in our waiting rooms (more than 6 feet apart). These options will support the need for physical distancing and promote your safety.

“We know certain aspects of an appointment may look different in light of COVID-19 precautions, but we want patients to know, above all else, that we are there for them and that we have the resources to safely treat their own personal health needs, while also fighting this virus as a unified team.”

Michael Newkirk, MD, Vice President of Physician Services for Baptist Health Medical Group

To learn about the specific safety precautions in place at your provider’s office, please contact your provider’s office.

What can be handled over the computer or phone?

As a result of COVID-19, both providers and patients have learned that virtual care, or telehealth, is an integral and effective means of providing medical care. Baptist Health Virtual Care connects you with a Baptist Health provider via your smartphone, tablet or computer for consultation and treatment for specific conditions, including COVID-19 symptoms.

Our Virtual Care services have been immensely helpful in preventing the spread of infection to other patients and assisted patients in abiding by the “Stay at Home” order as much as possible. Virtual Care visits are a great option for those with non-urgent conditions, those with chronic conditions, those seeking follow-up appointments, and much more.

Baptist Health Virtual Care includes the following:

  • Urgent Care Video Visits require a smartphone, tablet or computer with a working camera on your device. This will connect you face-to-face via your device with a Baptist Health provider. These visits are on demand, on your time.
  • Scheduled Video Visits also require a smartphone, tablet or computer with working camera to connect you face-to-face with your primary care provider or specialty provider. These are scheduled through your provider’s office.
  • In an E-Visit, you will fill out a symptom-specific questionnaire online, and a Baptist Health provider will follow up with a recommended treatment plan for you via MyChart.

Both types of video visits as well as E-Visits require a patient to have a MyChart account. Signing up is easy and can be done here. For video visits only, a patient needs to have the Zoom app downloaded on their device prior to their scheduled appointment. You can download the Zoom app in the iTunes or Google Play Store.

To sign up for MyChart, visit MyChart.BaptistHealth.com.

For more information on Virtual Care, visit BaptistHealthVirtualCare.com.

“With Baptist Health’s expansion of Virtual Care offerings, it’s now easier than ever for patients to secure the medical support they need,” said Nick Sarantis, Director of Digital Health for Baptist Health Medical Group. “COVID-19 will likely shift the medical landscape to include increased availability of telehealth options, even after the virus subsides.”

Patients can also take advantage of the Baptist Health nurse call center at 1.800.444.0328. Nurses are available to answer your COVID-19 related questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Baptist Health stands ready to expand its telehealth and digital options, while also continuing to offer outstanding and compassionate in-person care.

How do I know which of my appointments can wait and which cannot? 

Each person’s healthcare needs vary, so now is an important time to stay in tune with your body and make the best decisions for your own personal health. In general, those with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or COPD, should ensure they remain in contact with their providers regarding safe methods of evaluation and treatment, whether those are virtual or in-person. Continuity of care is important in monitoring such illnesses. Those who are otherwise healthy and scheduled for routine wellness visits or other non-emergency consultations might consult with their provider to discuss options for appointments and timing that will best support their health. Those with new or concerning symptoms should avoid the “fear and avoidance trap” and reach out to a Baptist Health provider as soon as possible to discuss a prompt and safe care option that helps address the new symptoms.

We understand these kinds of decisions are difficult to make during this time and often carry with them anxiety or worry. If you feel unsure of the best course of action, we encourage you to reach out to your provider, ask your questions, and share your concerns. We are in this together and ready to support you with honesty, safe options, and a clear path forward.

What if I have a medical emergency?

In a medical emergency, quick action is just as important as it was prior to COVID-19. If you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or go to your local emergency department. Baptist Health emergency departments have established safety protocols in place to treat patients with and without COVID-19. Explain your symptoms and identify yourself as someone not showing symptoms of COVID-19 but with another emergent condition. The ER staff will take it from there, with your safety a top priority.

Keep in mind that ER staff will be wearing masks and other protective equipment. There’s no need to be alarmed, as this equipment promotes the safety of everyone in the emergency room. Patients and visitors are required to wear masks as well. Learn more about our visitor restrictions here.

Safety in All that We Do

During this time of much anxiety, your health continues to be our main priority. If you have any concerns regarding your health, COVID-19 related or otherwise, or are unsure if medical attention is necessary, we encourage you to err on the side of caution and seek healthcare services, either virtually or in person. Our physicians stand ready to evaluate your symptoms while supporting your safety and peace-of-mind.

The protocols we have in place, from sanitizing all surfaces at scheduled intervals, to wearing protective gear, to ensuring social distancing guidelines are followed, show our core value of treating each person with integrity, respect and compassion. Patient safety is the foundation of all that we do.

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