Five Things You Need to Do to Prepare for Your Telemedicine Appointment

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to learn how to do a wide variety of tasks we have been comfortable completing in-person, virtually. From socializing with friends and book club chats to online banking and grocery orders, many familiar responsibilities are becoming digitized. A critical component of your healthy lifestyle that you can safely conduct from your home, believe it or not, is your annual doctor’s appointment, and even some urgent care appointments. Just like with an in-person exam, there are a few steps you should complete in advance of your appointment to ensure you feel prepared. Read on to learn what our team of caregivers recommends to best prepare for a telemedicine appointment.

 

1. Contact Your Insurance Provider

You will not want to be surprised by an unexpected health care bill. Before you make an appointment, contact your insurance provider to determine if your plan covers telemedicine. Some insurance plans may not cover telemedicine services; however, insurance coverage is evolving rapidly in response to Federal and State emergency proclamations addressing COVID-19. As a result, many insurers are adding coverage for telemedicine services.

 

2. Write Down Your List of Questions

This step is essential even when you are meeting your physician in-person to ensure you do not forget to ask any questions that have been building up in the back of your mind since your last exam. Especially during your first time experiencing a telemedicine exam, in which you may be distracted by the technology interface, ensure you maximize your time with your caregiver by asking any critical questions about such health areas as:

    • Your risk of chronic conditions or diseases that have impacted members of your family
    • Concerns about side effects of your routine prescriptions
    • Diet or weight loss goals
    • Skin, digestive, mood, or sleep abnormalities

 

3. Take a Photo

If you have questions or concerns about an illness or injury that has resulted in physically visible symptoms, take a photo that you can share with your physician during your appointment or as a follow-up. Telemedicine appointments are safe alternatives to in-person exams for such concerns as moles, rashes, or hives that you may previously have sought treatment for in an urgent care setting.

 

4. Consider Your Setting

Your doctor will speak with you from a quiet, private location. You will want to do the same. Make arrangements to hold your telemedicine call from a quiet, private setting in your home. Ensure you have a reliable internet connection that is capable of video conferencing. If possible, use headphones with a built-in microphone for the best audio quality for you as the listener and to ensure your physician can hear you in return. Most importantly, you will want to feel as if you have the privacy you would expect in your doctor’s office to discuss health concerns candidly.

 

5. Know When to Make an In-Person Appointment

There are some scenarios in which a physician should assess your symptoms in-person. These include anything that requires a hands-on exam, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, or chest pain. If you believe that COVID-19 may be causing your symptoms, call any of our clinics. Please inform our care team if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Our compassionate care team is trained to identify, diagnose, and address novel coronavirus symptoms and can help to triage your care appropriately.

 

If you believe you are experiencing a true medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

 

Telemedicine will enable you to speak with and receive care from a compassionate provider you know and trust without having to leave your home. If you would like to make a telemedicine appointment with any of our compassionate care providers, click here.

What Should You Do if Your Medication is Recalled?

Millions of Americans rely on the use of regular prescription medications to treat chronic conditions. Says the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), approximately 46 percent of the U.S. population used one or more prescription medications in the past month. If you are among those reliant on medication to help you manage such common conditions as high blood pressure or cholesterol, chronic pain, diabetes, or asthma, know the recommended steps to take if you are notified that your medication has been recalled. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls medications annually as a patient safety measure. Be prepared with a plan so that your care treatment is not detrimentally interrupted if a recall happens to you.

 

What is a Drug Recall?

A prescription recall is a voluntary action taken by the manufacturer or the FDA at any time to remove a defective drug product from the market.

 

Why are Drugs Recalled?

While it may inadvertently be an inconvenience for patients, drug recalls are the most effective way to ensure safety and minimize the risk of a complication, dangerous side effects—or in the worst case, death—from the use of a specific medication. Drug manufacturers and the FDA work diligently to ensure that before medications are released to the public that they are tested for possible issues. Post-release, the entities continue to monitor the drugs for complications. If anything unforeseen arises that may put patients at risk, the FDA or the manufacturer may decide to issue a recall. Monitored issues range from drug efficacy and dangers to inadequate or misleading packaging, to hazards identified during the manufacturing process that may have contaminated products.

 

What Should You Do if Your Prescription is Recalled?

Most recalls are issued out of an abundance of caution due to minor issues. If a prescription medication that you have been taking is recalled, do not panic. Stop taking the medication immediately, and call your doctor or contact a pharmacist and ask for a recommended replacement.

Read the available materials from the FDA or the manufacturer to understand the reason for the recall. If there was an issue with the efficacy of the product, and you have been experiencing possible related side effects, share that information with your doctor.

Safely discard the recalled medication or return it to your pharmacy. Most drugs should not be flushed down the toilet. Instead, mix it with coffee grounds or kitty litter in a bag and then place it in the trash—carefully out of reach of any children or pets.

Moving forward, if you ever notice anything suspicious with a medication—such as a tampered seal, broken packaging, strange smell or odd appearance, contact your pharmacist before taking the drug, even if you have not been informed of a recall.

 

Recalls of Over-the-Counter Medications

Keep in mind that it is not only prescription medications that may be recalled. Over-the-counter medicines are also closely monitored by the FDA and are subject to recalls. If you own any over-the-counter drugs that are recalled, stop taking them immediately. Return the medication to the store at which you purchased it and ask for a refund. The pharmacist or your doctor can recommend a safe alternative.

If you have any concerns about recalled medications, talk to your doctor, or visit the FDA’s drug recall list.

Antigen Testing Now Available from Nova Urgent Care

Nova Urgent Care is now offering the Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA rapid point-of-care test for the detection of COVID-19 to symptomatic and asymptomatic patients that have had contact exposure. The antigen test is available in Nova Urgent Care’s service areas of Lane, Linn, Douglas, and Gallatin Counties. Antigen tests are critical to the overall response against COVID-19 as they can be produced at a lower cost than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) antibody tests, and accelerate the time to diagnosis and potential treatment of COVID- 19 for the patient.

The Sofia 2 is the first antigen test authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to quickly detect proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19 in respiratory specimens such as nasal swabs. Test results may be provided within 15 minutes using this methodology.

What Does the Antigen Test’s Authorization Under the FDA’s EUA Mean?

When there are no FDA-approved or cleared tests for a virus available and other criteria are met, the FDA can make tests available under an emergency access mechanism called an EUA. The EUA for this test is supported by the Secretary of Health and Human Service’s (HHS’s) declaration that circumstances exist to justify the emergency use of in vitro diagnostics (IVD) for the detection and/or diagnosis of the virus that causes COVID-19. This EUA will remain in effect (meaning this test can be used) for the duration of the COVID-19 declaration justifying emergency use of IVDs unless it is terminated or revoked by the FDA.

What is the Difference Between an Antigen Test and an Antibody Test?

Nova Health has also been providing the PCR antibody test to area patients for the past several weeks. While the PCR test can be incredibly accurate, running the tests and analyzing the results takes time. The PCR is a molecular test that detects genetic material from the virus. Antigen tests, like the Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA, detect proteins from the virus within minutes. Antigen tests are highly specific for the virus. Still, they are not as sensitive as molecular tests, which means that a positive result is highly accurate, but a negative result does not rule out infection.

More specifically:

Regarding Antigen Tests:

  • An antigen is a molecule or structure present on the outside of a pathogen
  • Antigen tests are typically used for early identification of an active infection in symptomatic patients
  • These tests identify the virus through detection of nucleoproteins, similar to influenza tests
  • Viral antigens can often be detected in samples taken from nasal passages and the throat
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a test that detects the SARS-CoV-2 virus, such as one that checks respiratory samples to test for active infection.

Regarding Antibody Tests:

  • Antibodies are proteins that the body’s white blood cells produce to fight infection, which may remain in the blood long after the infection clears
  • Antibody tests identify active (IgM) or past (IgG) infections by looking for antibodies against the specific virus
  • Antibody tests look for exposure to a pathogen resulting in the generation of an immune response, e.g., increase in IgG/IgM antibodies; the immune response may take days or weeks to appear in a serology assay post-exposure
  • Antibodies are typically detected in blood samples; either whole blood or serum/plasma
  • Antibody tests typically cannot diagnose the disease immediately after exposure, as antibodies may take one to three weeks to develop
  • A positive antibody test indicates that a person had an immune response to SARS-CoV-2 regardless of the presence of symptoms
  • Whether antibodies may indicate immunity to further infection is still being investigated by the healthcare community

If I Believe I Have Been Exposed to COVID-19, Why Should I Obtain the Antigen Test?

If you test positive, the results, along with other information, can help your healthcare provider make informed recommendations about your care, and the test results may help limit the spread of COVID-19 to your family and others in your community.

Are There Potential Risks of Receiving the Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA Test?

Possible side effects include potential mild discomfort or other complications that can happen during sample collection. As an additional risk factor, the test may produce an incorrect test result.

What Does it Mean if I Receive a Positive Antigen Test Result?

If you receive a positive test result, you have likely contracted COVID-19 because proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19 were found in your sample. Therefore, it is also likely that you may be placed in isolation to avoid spreading the virus to others. There is a small chance that this test can give a positive result that is wrong (a false-positive result). Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine how best to care for you based on your test results, along with your medical history and symptoms.

What Does it Mean if I Receive a Negative Antigen Test Result?

A negative test result means that proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19 were not found in your sample. This test can give a false-negative result in some individuals with COVID-19, which means that you could still have COVID-19 even though the test is negative. If your test result is negative, your healthcare provider will consider the test result together with all other aspects of your medical history in deciding how to care for you.

If your test result is negative, you should discuss with your healthcare provider whether an additional PCR test would help with your care, and when you should discontinue home isolation. If you do not have an additional test to determine if you are infected and may spread the infection to others, the CDC currently recommends that you should stay home until three things have happened:

  • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (without the use of medicine that reduces fevers); and
  • Other symptoms have improved; and
  • At least seven days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

For more information, refer to the CDC’s guidance on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick.

What is a COVID-19 Serological Antibody Test?

Nova Health, a comprehensive provider of quality urgent care, primary care, physical therapy, and musculoskeletal services in Oregon and Montana, offers COVID-19 serological antibody tests at all clinic locations.

Serological tests for SARS-CoV-2 are intended for those individuals who either have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and had a negative molecular test, or those that were not tested when ill and now have recovered.  This test determines the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 testing, the COVID-19 serological test in particular, the meaning of positive and negative results, and more.

 

Q. How can healthcare professionals confirm COVID-19 infection?

A. Confirmation of infection with SARS-CoV-2 must be made through a combination of clinical evaluation and other applicable tests.

 
Q. What does a COVID-19 positive serologic test result mean?

A. A positive serologic result indicates that an individual has likely produced an immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

 
Q. What does a COVID-19 negative serologic test result mean?

A. A negative serologic result suggests that an individual has not developed detectable antibodies at the time of testing. While contingent on a variety of factors, a negative result could be due to testing too early in the course of infection, the absence of exposure to the virus, or the lack of an adequate immune response, which may be due to conditions or treatments that suppress immune function.

 
Q. What should a patient do who tests positive for COVID-19?

A. Decisions about ongoing monitoring, treatment, or return to normal activities for patients being treated for suspected infection with SARS-CoV-2 should be made following guidance from a healthcare provider or public health authorities. Social distancing and disease prevention precautions such as wearing face masks and frequent handwashing still applies.

 
Q. Is COVID-19 serologic testing FDA approved?

A. Serum assays have not been FDA cleared or approved. The FDA released guidance on the diagnostic use of serum assays titled, “Policy for Diagnostic Tests for Coronavirus Disease 2019 during the Public Health Emergency – Immediately in Effect Guidance for Clinical Laboratories, Commercial Manufacturers and Food and Drug Administrative Staff.” The serum assay is an Abbott certified test performed at LabCorp high complexity lab.

The guidance states that the FDA authorizes the use of the serum assay test device:

  • Under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for use by authorized laboratories
  • For the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (e.g., total, IgG, IgA, and IgM), and not for any other viruses or pathogens
  • For the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for the detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1).

May is Lupus Awareness Month. What is it, and Who is at Risk?

It is the disease that has earned the mysterious nickname of The Disease of 1,000 Faces.

Lupus is an inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks its tissues and often causes painful joint pain. It impacts 1.5 million Americans and at least five million people around the world. Every May, we recognize Lupus Awareness Month as a time to generate awareness and raise critical funds for life-saving research and support services. What is this currently incurable disease, and who is at risk? Read on to learn more.

 

What is Lupus?

One reason why Lupus Awareness Month is so critical is that many aspects of the disease—including its spectrum of symptom severity—remain a mystery to doctors and researchers. The condition is often challenging to diagnose, painful to live with, and hard to treat. It creates a broad array of symptoms and can appear with little warning.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease. It causes pain and inflammation throughout the body in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the:

  • Joints
  • Internal organs, including heart and kidneys
  • Skin

Lupus is a disease of cycles, which means that when it is in remission, a person may exhibit no symptoms. When the condition is active, however, patients experience a flare-up of symptoms.

While no one knows what causes the disease, researchers have found that the condition is genetic. Some experts also believe that Lupus may be triggered in response to specific hormones, particularly estrogen, or to environmental factors.

 

There are four types of Lupus:

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) – The most common form of Lupus, this version can be mild or severe.
  • Cutaneous Lupus – Limited to the skin, this version can cause rashes and lesions on the face, neck, and scalp. The skin of the inflamed areas can become thick, scaly, or suffer scarring.
  • Drug-Induced Lupus Erythematosus – A lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs. It affects about ten percent of Lupus patients. Some drug categories that may cause this form of Lupus include those used to treat seizures, high blood pressure, as well as thyroid medications, oral contraceptives, antibiotics, and antifungals.
  • Neonatal Lupus – While not a true form of Lupus, this rare condition affects infants of about one percent of women who have Lupus and is caused by antibodies from the mother acting upon the infant while in utero.

 

What are the Symptoms of Lupus?

Lupus is a painful condition with symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Some of the most common symptoms of Lupus include swelling, inflammation, and damage to skin, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, and skin.

 

Who is at Risk of Developing Lupus?

While anyone can develop Lupus during their lifetime, the disease most commonly affects:

  • Women between the ages of 15 and 44
  • African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander individuals
  • People with a family member who has been diagnosed with Lupus or another autoimmune disease

If you are experiencing symptoms of swelling and pain, and believe that it may be caused by Lupus, talk to your doctor. He or she will diagnose your symptoms and will help you create a treatment plan to help you manage your pain and discomfort.

Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month – Are Your Symptoms from Allergies or COVID-19?

People who suffer from seasonal allergies know all too well the discomfort of running daily errands or trying to focus on work with dry, itchy eyes, a dry cough, and irritating sneeze. These days, as the whole world waits with bated breath for a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, any respiratory symptom can create anxiety. If you’ve found yourself coughing or sneezing and are worried that you may be experiencing something more concerning than seasonal allergies, read our guidance below to familiarize yourself with the critical differences in symptoms.

 

If you believe that you may be suffering from COVID-19, talk to your doctor to determine if you should get tested. If you are experiencing difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention.

 

Common Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of seasonal allergies, often caused by pollen, grass, and other outdoor irritants, often include:

  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sneezing
  • Sinus congestion
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy sinus, ear canals, and throat
  • Ear congestion
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Cough
 

Common COVID-19 Symptoms

While the range of symptoms of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 has been somewhat broad, the most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lack of smell or taste
 

COVID-19 symptoms commonly appear within five to 14 days after exposure to someone with the virus.

It is important to note that allergy symptoms that most closely resemble those of COVID-19 are less common. These include coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If you do not typically experience such symptoms of your allergies, and particularly if you have been exposed to someone diagnosed as having the virus, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether or not you should receive a COVID-19 test.

 

COVID-19 Testing from Nova Health

Nova Health has been offering COVID-19 testing to patients within our communities since March 12, 2020. We recently expanded our testing capability to include both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

Expanded testing will have the most significant impact of decreasing community spread and help flatten the curve of COVID-19 by helping identify the virus before symptoms arise. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and believe that you are not experiencing allergies, we highly encourage you to contact one of our clinics to determine if you should be tested for COVID-19. Click here to learn more about our available testing.

If you are experiencing allergy symptoms, we offer telemedicine screening as well as in-car screenings to provide you with the care you need in a safe environment.