How to Keep Up with Your Medical Care During the COVID-19 Shutdown

doctor checking medical needs to avoid medical malpractice

Individuals with ongoing medical needs may be concerned about obtaining medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any patient seeking medical care should know that medical offices are essential businesses and are exempt from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s order closing all non-life-sustaining businesses.

Medical professionals are expected to practice safety protocols, such as social distancing. You can get the medical care you require in Kentucky without unnecessary risk of exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, our attorneys represent clients who have suffered a personal injury or workplace injuries, and for whom receiving ongoing medical care is often a necessity. The Kentucky personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers of Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer stand beside you during this trying time with the Kentucky Courage we bring to the table as your attorneys. If you need our help, don’t hesitate to contact us at (877) 809-5352 or online.

What to Expect from Doctors During the COVID-19 Shutdown

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for all U.S. healthcare facilities to respond to community spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. “Community spread” refers to the presence of the virus in a specific area, including among some people who are not sure how they became infected.

The CDC reaffirms that maintaining a functioning healthcare system is of paramount importance. “It is critical for healthcare facilities to continue to provide care for all patients, irrespective of COVID-19 infection status, at the appropriate level, whether that involves home-based care, outpatient treatment, urgent care, emergency room care, or hospitalization.”

The CDC is advising medical offices to explore alternatives to face-to-face triage and visits. This includes:

  • Instructing patients to use available patient portals, online self-assessment tools, or to call and speak to an office/clinic staff member if they have coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
  • Identifying staff to conduct telephone and telehealth interactions with patients. Medical offices are to develop protocols so staff can assess patients quickly.
  • Determining measures to identify which patients can be treated by telephone and which patients will need to be seen at the doctor’s office or at emergency care.
  • Instructing patients that if they have respiratory symptoms they should call before they leave home, so staff can be prepared to care for them when they arrive.

The Kentucky Medical Association is urging physicians to follow guidance from the CDC and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. A major initiative of the KY Cabinet is to promote the adoption of telehealth services across the Commonwealth.

‘Telehealth’ Technology Increases Remote Medical Care Options

Telehealth” is the use of electronic information and telecommunications to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, and public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and wireless communications.

In normal times, telehealth can connect patients who live in rural areas to services offered by distant providers. This capability enables patients to receive care in their communities and avoid long travel times. Today, telehealth allows all of us to stay at home and receive care we need without exposure to COVID-19.

Many healthcare organizations are already set up to provide telehealth. All a patient needs to use telehealth services is a stable internet connection and a computer, tablet or smartphone. Hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and other healthcare providers are all bound by the same requirements as in face-to-face visits to keep your health information safe.

Medicare, Medicaid, and the Kentucky Department of Insurance have authorized the increased use of telehealth services under COVID-19 prevention protocols. Medicare has specific services that may be offered via telehealth. The Kentucky telehealth law requires Medicaid and managed care organizations (MCOs) to cover medical services provided via telehealth to the same extent they cover medical services provided in-person.

The KY Department of Insurance prohibits insurers from requiring that a patient have a prior relationship with the provider in order to have services delivered through telehealth, if the provider determines that telehealth would be medically appropriate.

Under emergency rules, the following services are permissible as telehealth services or as a telecommunication-mediated health service:

  • Applied behavioral analysis
  • Behavior supports and counseling services
  • Case management
  • Certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC) counseling
  • Comprehensive community support services
  • Day treatment
  • Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit services
  • Group outpatient therapy
  • In-home services, such as personal care or homemaking
  • Intensive outpatient program services
  • Mobile crisis services
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Peer support services
  • Physical, occupational and speech therapy
  • Prosthetic and orthotic services
  • Service planning
  • Supported employment
  • Therapeutic rehabilitation program.

The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs is also expanding its telehealth services for veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support Yourself During Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation

This is a stressful time for all of us. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, and no one truly knows what to expect from an infectious disease outbreak that requires social distancing, quarantine or isolation.

Here are some tips for coping from the CDC and from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

  • Stay up to date on what is happening. Look to credible sources for information on the infectious disease outbreak, such as the CDC or the official Team Kentucky source for information concerning COVID-19.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to eat healthy and well-balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Now and then, stop to take deep breaths and stretch. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Stay connected to others. Use the telephone, email, text messaging, and social media to connect with friends, family, and others. Talk “face to face” with friends and loved ones using Skype or FaceTime.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, and especially from social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Arrange for your needs. Inform health care providers of any medications you need regularly and work with them to ensure that you continue to receive those medications. Ask your health care providers about telehealth capabilities, or social distancing and other safety protocols if you are to make office visits. Provide your employer with a clear explanation of why you are away from work, if necessary.
  • Reduce financial stress. Contact your utility providers, cable and Internet provider, landlord or mortgage banker, and other creditors as soon as you realize you may have a problem making payments to explain your situation and request alternative arrangements.
  • Reach out. Call SAMHSA’s free 24-hour Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 if you feel lonely or need support. If you need to connect with someone because of an ongoing alcohol or drug problem, and are not already in a 12-step program, consider contacting a local Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous

The COVID-19 hotline at (800) 722-5725 is a service operated by the healthcare professionals at the KY Poison Control Center who can provide advice and answer questions. Because the phone line is likely to be extremely busy, check online for the answer to general questions before calling.