Your Health and Wellness Checkups Are More Important Than EverMay 22, 2020 - Katie McCallum
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed your day-to-day life, and there's not exactly a handbook for navigating the challenges of living through a pandemic. By now you know that staying healthy means avoiding things you're used to, like gathering in groups, and doing things you're not used to, like wearing a cloth mask in public.
But, with all of these changes, where do visits with your primary care doctor fit in?
"This virus is changing the way we do a lot of things, but it doesn't change the importance of maintaining your overall health," says Dr. Jewel Lincoln, primary care doctor at Houston Methodist. "Staying healthy means working with your primary care doctor to set health goals, as well as checking in regularly to ensure your health is on the right track."
Here's why staying connected with your primary care doctor is important — especially during a pandemic — as well as why you should find a primary care doctor if you don't already have one.
A healthy immune system starts with a healthy you
Your primary care doctor can help you manage your overall wellness, including the many components of your health that contribute to maintaining a strong immune system.
"Aside from frequent hand washing and practicing social distancing, a healthy immune system is one of your best weapons during the COVID-19 pandemic," says Dr. Lincoln. "This means it's important to be sure your immune system is getting all the support it needs to ward off infections to the best of its ability."
Your primary care doctor can help you understand and manage the parts of your overall wellness that help support a healthy immune system, such as:
- Not smoking
- Eating healthy
- Exercising regularly
- Drinking in moderation
- Getting quality sleep
- Limiting stress and anxiety
Your doctor can also facilitate any screenings or immunizations you may need, as well as help care for common illnesses that also impact your overall health and wellness.
Identifying and managing chronic health conditions is critical right now
Anyone can get COVID-19, but people with underlying medical conditions are more vulnerable to getting seriously ill — potentially even being hospitalized. This means identifying and managing chronic health conditions is more important than ever.
"There are a variety of chronic health conditions to be on the lookout for, each manifesting in a different way and with different symptoms," says Dr. Lincoln. "Your primary care doctor knows the questions to ask and the tests to run to help determine the underlying cause of any symptom you're experiencing."
Common chronic health conditions include:
- Diabetes or prediabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety or depression
Your primary care doctor can also help you manage your chronic symptoms or health conditions, as well as refer you to a specialist for further help, if needed.
Why everyone needs a primary care doctor, especially during a pandemic
Even if you feel healthy, having a primary care doctor you see regularly means having an expert you can trust to answer your health questions or triage your symptoms, whenever needed.
"For instance, your primary care doctor can help answer any questions you may have about COVID-19, as well as help you determine if you're at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19," explains Dr. Lincoln.
In addition, building and maintaining a rapport with your doctor now can help make it easier to diagnose any health conditions you may develop in the future.
"Your doctor can better assess your symptoms if he or she is already well-acquainted with your overall health," says Dr. Lincoln. "The more familiar your doctor is with your health, the easier it is to notice a symptom that sounds unusually strange for you or identify when an abnormal lab result is more than just an anomaly."
This familiarity with your health history could potentially be the difference between catching changes in your blood sugar before you develop diabetes, or watching your cholesterol levels when they're on the rise rather than when they're already too high.
If you need a primary care doctor, you can find one by visiting Find-a-Doctor and calling the provider's number listed, or calling or texting 713.394.6724 for help finding one.
You can see your doctor virtually or in person
Right now, you may be thinking it's best to avoid seeing your doctor in person, but know that our primary care offices have extensive safety measures in place to keep you safe during your visit, including:
- Screening all patients when scheduling appointments and again upon arrival
- Practicing social distancing in waiting rooms and check-in lines
- Wearing masks and other personal protective equipment while providing care
- Cleaning all exam rooms, bathrooms and waiting areas thoroughly throughout the day
We're also minimizing the number of patients we're seeing in our clinics every day by expanding virtual services, staggering in-person appointments and even extending hours at some of our primary care locations.
"If a physical exam, blood work or immunizations are needed, you will need to come into your doctor's office — but routine visits can happen via a video visit," explains Dr. Lincoln.
A video visit is just like a regular, in-person visit with your doctor. You'll schedule your visit with your doctor ahead of time — either online, by phone or via text — and then use MyChart to video visit with your doctor at your scheduled time. Before your MyChart video visit, be sure to download the MyChart app in the App Store or on Google Play. When it's time for your visit, log into the MyChart app on your phone or tablet and begin your video visit with your provider.
"I know going to your doctor's office might make you nervous right now, but we're taking every precaution needed to keep you safe," adds Dr. Lincoln. "Staying safe from COVID-19 is a priority right now, but so is your overall health."