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Advice for those at higher risk for COVID-19 who have routine doctor appointments

There's a good chance people who fall in the high-risk groups for COVID-19 will have routine doctor appointments. Officials hope they'll consider telemedicine.
Credit: 9NEWS File Photo

DENVER — There's a good chance people who fall into the higher-risk groups for COVID-19 will have routine doctor appointments. 

The hope? These people will consider using telemedicine -- or appointments that can be done remotely -- to avoid getting sick while trying to get well. 

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Who is high-risk for COVID-19?

The high-risk group includes older adults and anyone at any age with chronic health conditions, like lung and heart disease, are immunosuppressed.

What are doctors advising for routine appointments 

Dr. Wendee Gozansky, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado geriatrician and chief quality officer, said they are taking a virtual-first approach. 

"We don't want people to take unnecessary risk,' Gozansky said. 

Gozansky said they are encouraging patients to call their doctors first and see what they can take care of over the phone, through video chat or online chatting. 

For example, if a person is due for a physical, Gozansky said a lot of the preventative screening doesn't have to be done in person. 

If a person does need to get lab work done, they can ask their doctor about if it's safe to come in for lab work or come in later. 

Telemedicine doesn't work for every kind of appointment so it's important to talk to your doctor first. 

What is the state department of health saying about it?  

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the state told insurance companies to remind members that telehealth is an option. 

Amanda Massey with the Colorado Association of Health Plans said co-pays should be similar to an in-person visit and in some cases free, depending on your plan. 

CDPHE said it instructed companies to provide COVID-19 related telehealth services with no co-pay right now. 

Does this work for behavioral health appointments too? 

Vincent Atchity with Mental Health Colorado said telehealth can be useful in the right circumstances, like after there is an established relationship with a provider. 

For both medical and mental health emergencies, it's important to remember 911, emergency rooms or seeing a doctor in person are all still necessary.

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How well does telehealth work? 

There is an on-going effort to expand telehealth but there can be some limitations, like some people living in rural Colorado who may not have fast enough internet to support a video chat with a doctor.

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Then there's the concern of what happens to a person who does need to go into see a provider in person but lives too far away from providers for easy access to health care. 

There's also a concern doctors may not get reimbursed enough to cover costs. 

What do you do if you think you've been exposed to COVID-19? 

Call your doctor first to get directions on where to go, what your next steps are and where to get tested. This includes calling before going to the emergency room and is applicable for all age groups. 

What if you don't have insurance? 

CDPHE said people without insurance can go to state-run drive-up testing centers with any kind of photo ID, it doesn't have to be government issued.

In Denver there will be a testing center, Saturday, March 14, in a new location at the Denver Coliseum, 4600 Humboldt St, Denver, CO, 80216.

It will be open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.  The testing center will be able to serve the first 100-150 people in line.

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If that person doesn't have a doctor's referral, they will meet with a nurse or epidemiologist on site and they will determine if that person meets the criteria for testing. This is only for people without insurance. 

If a test is warranted it will be provided for free. The meeting will be free as well. 

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