Just as changes have occurred with literally EVERYTHING in our community in the last month, you may have noticed that it’s harder to get a routine appointment at your doctor’s office as well. That’s because on March 17, the CDC recommended postponing all routine healthcare and elective surgeries. That means that doctors from your eye doctor to your gynecologist and surgeries from cataract to colonoscopies have been postponed. However, even if we’re not on the front lines in a hospital, your doctors have an important role in this pandemic. Even though we’re not doing routine care, we are always here for our patients for emergency appointments and almost all of us have implemented a telemedicine option for our community. In fact, we encourage you to call us first, rather than heading to a busier ER where you’re more likely to be exposed to COVID-19. I decided to reach out to some other local physicians in the Salisbury-Rowan area and find out how they’re coping both in-office and at home and what messages they have for our community.
Dr. Yatawara is a gynecologist practicing in Salisbury. Her passion is helping maturing women look and feel their best.
Dr. Fortner is a dentist practicing in Salisbury.
Dr. Ott practices family medicine at Rowan Family Physicians.
Dr. Wilson is the medical director of the community Care Clinic in Salisbury.
Have you implemented telemedicine in your practice since COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders were put in place?
Dr. Yatawara: Yes, we have. Once we heard the recommendation to limit all non-urgent ambulatory visits, we immediately started researching the option for telemedicine and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the requirements for telemedicine visits had been relaxed enough to make it possible for us to start offering that option immediately. So, in one day, we were able to offer telemedicine visits to our patients.
Dr. Fortner: Yes, I have implemented tele-dentistry during this time.
Drs. Ott and Wilson: We have both implemented telemedicine in our practices. The Community Care Clinic is seeing all patients virtually at this point – either via video or telephone. Rowan Family Physicians is doing video and telephone visits in addition to seeing patients in the office.
What types of conditions have you been able to treat in your patients via virtual care so that they did not have to seek care in ER/hospital setting and/or care that saved them from a potentially bigger issue that would’ve occurred if they had to wait it out?
Dr. Yatawara: We’ve decided that it’s important to remain present in the office so that we’re available to our patients. Because of that, we’ve been able to manage our patients’ issues either by telemedicine or by offering to see them in the office. In particular, we’ve been able to manage vaginal bleeding, vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, and breast issues. Our goal has been to make sure that our patients stay away from the hospital, ER and Urgent Care settings as much as possible, and I think it’s worked.
Dr. Fortner: I’ve been able to diagnose and provide recommendations for broken teeth, dental restorations and acute tooth aches. Some patients are experiencing an issue for the first time and they are very concerned. The most beneficial thing is being able to reassure them that they will be okay until I can see them in the office. I’ve been able to prescribe antibiotics, in some cases, to keep them comfortable.
Drs. Ott and Wilson: The primary reason for incorporating telemedicine is to keep people from being potentially exposed to COVID-19. We have treated a variety of issues through telemedicine, from acute to chronic. All have been reasonably successful, but it’s not the same as treating patients in person. There are specific conditions where it is really important to continue to see people in person.
What has been your favorite stay-at-home activity in this quarantine?
Dr. Yatawara: Like most, my family and I have really tried to make the most of this “slower” time. We’ve tried to declutter and purge, which always makes me happy, and, in the evenings, we’ve enjoyed putting puzzles together. We had a 1,000-piece puzzle of the Mona Lisa (mostly black pieces!) that took us 10 days to put together. In my daughter’s words, “it was an eye-gouging puzzle!” We just finished it and we’ve challenged another family to try to put it together in less than the 10 days that it took us, and, we’ve moved onto the next puzzle.
Dr. Fortner: My favorite thing while being at home is playing with my dogs and getting caught up on small home projects.
Drs. Ott and Wilson: While at home, we have both enjoyed reading books in the evening and playing games as a family. We’ve also taken some family bike rides to enjoy this beautiful weather.
What message do you have for your patients and our greater Rowan community?
Dr. Yatawara: First, I’d like to express my sympathy to those families that have lost their loved ones. I am truly sorry for your loss. Secondly, I sincerely hope that all those suffering right now from this virus are able to make a full recovery. Rowan, I know this has been a hard transition. I feel it myself. However, it’s been a time when we’ve all been able to stop and realize the importance of our health. We say it often, but don’t truly act on it as often as we should. My hope is that we continue some of this slower pace, that we remember our neighbors and that we truly value our health. Stay strong, Rowan!
Dr. Fortner: We are here for you and we look forward to seeing you face to face very soon. I want my patients to know my office has always taken infection control very seriously, and we go above and beyond in following the guidelines recommended by the CDC and the ADA to ensure that the staff and the patients are always safe. We schedule onsite training each year to make sure we are up to date on the latest guidelines.
Drs. Ott and Wilson: We are deeply appreciative of our patients – and our community – for continuing to work towards controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our area. Please continue to wash your hands and stay home!
What are you most looking forward to when we are all able to get out of our homes?
Dr. Yatawara: I’m looking forward to being able to go back to church. While participating in virtual church is certainly a great option, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to have face-to-face fellowship. I miss that.
Dr. Fortner: Visiting with my friends, traveling, and going out to eat at my favorite Salisbury restaurants.
Drs. Ott and Wilson: We are looking forward to seeing our friends and families! I’m looking forward to watching my children play and hang out with their friends, and Ben can’t wait to get his morning coffee from Koco Java.
Just like all of the doctors I’ve interviewed, I too have implemented telemedicine in my practice. Although I hadn’t ever done it before, my team and I were able to be up and running almost immediately. It’s allowed me to take care of eye problems so that my patients and our community don’t have to seek care at the hospital where the chances of being exposed to COVID-19 may be higher. No matter the specialty, despite effectively being shut down by this pandemic, the doctors in our area have mobilized themselves and their teams and adapted quickly to keep ourselves, our teams, our patients and the entire community as safe as possible. I think its safe to say that collectively, our hearts go out to this community that we serve and we want you to know we’re thinking of you and praying for you. Until this is over, I’ll just be chasing my baby around, she decided to learn to crawl during this shut down! Take care Rowan, wash your hands, social distance, and we all look forward to seeing you in-office very soon!
Rowan County knows its food! Blessed with abundant water supplies from creeks and rivers and good soil in much of the county, our county thrives on and celebrates its long history of farming. Nowhere is that more evident in mid-summer than a drive through western Rowan, where fields of tall green corn meet each other, covering the landscape.