Area health care providers make changes to services
With the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and dentists are taking additional precautionary measures to try and maintain the health and safety of their patients.
From closing waiting rooms to offering telemed services, following is what some of the local clinics and offices are doing at this time.
For the most up-to-date information, patients are asked to contact their physicians, specialists or dentists by telephone.
Certain patients will now be able to visit their HCM Medical Group provider via TeleVisits, a two-way virtual platform provided by Hill Country Memorial that minimizes the risks of one-to-one contact.
This innovative effort uses technology to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the local community, according to Clint Kotal, Chief Health Integration Officer.
“TeleVisits provides a platform for a secure two-way video visit between the patient and the provider,” Kotal said. “This ensures our patients have access to the health care needed, but from a distance as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control in light of the current situation.”
The new process will work in the following manner:
1. Patients will make their usual appointment with their Medical Group provider.
2. An HCM team member will call the patient in advance of the appointment to discuss specific appointment options.
3. Patients should be prepared to provide full details of signs, symptoms, and travel-related history each time they visit with health care providers.
4. If the team member determines the patient’s appointment can be effectively handled via TeleVisit, they will deliver instructions on how to use the platform.
5. The patients can access the virtual visit by either logging into their existing patient portal on their computer, or downloading the “Healow” app on their phone and logging in with their patient portal credentials.
The app is available through the hospital website’s patient portal and is accessible on any smart phone, computer or tablet connected to the internet.
Detailed instructions and a list of Frequently Asked Questions are provided on the website.
The new service began Monday and is expected to continue through mid-May, depending on the duration of the current public health measures.
Another option for any patient unable to make an office visit is to reschedule the appointment to a later date.
The CDC recommends preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, such as staying home when sick, following proper respiratory cough etiquette, avoiding close contact and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Anyone with questions regarding an appointment is invited to call 830-990-1404 or visit HCMTeleHealth.org to learn more about TeleVisits.
Local and timely information about dealing with COVID-19 is available at HCMCOVID19.org.
“HCM is actively working to ensure a seamless experience during extraordinary circumstances,” Kotal said. “We care about you and our goal is to protect all those we serve, with remarkable care.”
Women and Children First
Women and Children First offers obstetric, gynecologic and pediatric services by Dr. Rick Dulaney and Dr. Jennifer Woerner Dulaney.
“The current medical situation is unlike any other we have experienced,” Jennifer Dulaney said. “The medical community of Fredericksburg is working together to ensure the health and safety of everyone — our families, our friends and our neighbors.”
At Women and Children First, the waiting rooms have been closed for now.
When patients arrive, they wait in their vehicles and text the staff. When a room is ready, the patient is called in and taken straight back to their room.
Appointments are with the patient and only one visitor.
While Women and Children First already adheres to strict cleaning guidelines between patients, they are also now taking extra precautions.
Starting this week, the offices are using TeleMed visits whereby the patient can call to set up an appointment that will be done online (like Skype or FaceTime).
It was noted that patients with respiratory symptoms are being seen in their cars by physicians.
Patients over age 65 are being advised to reschedule for non-urgent health issues and no elective procedures or surgeries are being done at this time.
To keep pediatric patients on their vaccination schedules, well checks will only be held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Patients who don’t need vaccinations at this time will be rescheduled for a later time or through TeleMed.
The Fredericksburg Clinic is also taking extra precautions to protect its staff and patients.
Before anyone — employees, patients, delivery personnel, etc. — are allowed in the building, they are screened at the door, which includes getting their temperature checked and asking if they have any respiratory symptoms.
If they are exhibiting any symptoms of the coronavirus, they are sent back to their vehicles and a physician will come out to their car to see them.
Those who do pass the screening will enter the building and check in before returning to their car to wait for their appointment. When called back in, they will be taken straight into an exam room.
They are also cleaning and sanitizing every 15 minutes. This is a fluid situation that is constantly evolving to make sure they are doing everything possible to keep everyone they come into contact with safe and healthy.
The Fredericksburg Clinic is also offering office visits by telephone also known as TeleHealth.
Using a smartphone, patients will be able to actually see and talk to their care provider from home without having to get out and risk exposure to themselves or their loved ones.
Anyone may call them to schedule an appointment by dialing 830-997-2181 and selecting option 7.
Fredericksburg Clinic has eight physicians and two nurse practitioners on staff.
They are primary care physicians focusing on family and internal medicine.
Cornerstone Clinic is also taking extra precautions to create a safe space for its patients as well as limiting exposure to help patients feel that they are being taken care of.
Toward that goal, staff has removed about half of the furniture in the waiting room to promote patient distancing.
It was noted that all non-urgent appointments have been rescheduled.
For patients who have to come into the office, Cornerstone Clinic is following social distancing guidelines between patients and staff.
After checking in, these patients are encouraged to wait for the provider in their vehicle.
While proper disinfecting is routine, the staff is taking extra precautions when it comes to disinfecting the office.
For patients who have the capability, Cornerstone Clinic is also offering TeleVisits for patients. Rather than come into the office, patients can conduct their appointment with their care provider over the computer or smartphone.
Cornerstone Clinic has offices in Fredericksburg and Comfort with a combined five physicians and two nurse practitioners.
They are primary care physicians focusing on family medicine and obstetrics.
Dental offices and practices in Fredericksburg are currently following last week’s executive order from Texas Governor Greg Abbott to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition.
As a result, local dentists will be concentrating on emergency dental care at this time.
Persons with dental emergencies or for more information should contact their dentist.
Local vision care providers are also implementing temporary protocol changes.
For more information, patients are encouraged to check with their provider.