The New Normal: What To Expect When Going To The Doctor

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in many ways, including how hospitals and health systems around the world deliver care to patients.

As we continue to flatten the curve in Michigan, many hospitals and clinics already had begun to see patients for time-sensitive procedures and visits. The governor's latest order also allows for people to come in for elective surgeries and nonessential outpatient appointments again starting May 29. To help maintain patient and employee health, extra care is being taken to ensure that the next time you come in for a visit, you’ll be entering a safe environment.

“Although this is a scary time, we want to assure patients that every precaution we make is to ensure their experience is both the safest and highest quality that it can be,” says Betty Chu, M.D., Chief Quality Officer for Henry Ford Health System.

If there is one lesson this recent health crisis has taught us, it’s that each of us play a role in slowing the spread of the disease. We all must adapt. For patients and the community, that means following government-mandated orders to stay at home, wearing masks when out in public and continuing to practice social distancing. For medical centers or hospitals, that means adjusting facilities and implementing updated additional guidelines for patient safety.

What To Expect From Your Healthcare Provider

Whether you come in for a doctor’s appointment or into the emergency room, you may notice some changes from the last time you came in for a visit. While some practices remain the same – like cleaning and sanitizing all areas of the hospital – extra steps have been added to make sure medical facilities are prepared to safely see patients. For example, in addition to our usual cleaning standards, Henry Ford locations have enhanced practices to include more frequent disinfecting of common areas like waiting rooms and lobbies.

Here, Dr. Chu breaks down what to be aware of for your next visit at a Henry Ford location:

  • Health screenings at all entrances. Everyone entering a facility, including staff, will have their temperature taken and be checked for symptoms of COVID-19. If you show signs of possible illness, you will be referred to the appropriate medical staff.
    “To ensure all employees within Henry Ford Health System are ready to care for you, we do a temperature and symptoms check every day,” says Dr. Chu. “If any symptoms are discovered, the employee is immediately sent home – no exceptions.”
  • Marked entryways. Pay attention to signs outside of Henry Ford locations. Some entrances have been closed to make it easier to screen patients and help direct them to the right location or department within the building while maintaining social distance from others.
  • Protective dividers and social distancing instructions. It is important for all patients to maintain six feet of distance between each other. Waiting rooms will now have appropriate space between chairs or dividers put up to create more separation. You may also notice signs on the floor marking out where you need to stand in line at pharmacy locations or at front reception desks.
  • Strict handwashing and PPE protocols. In addition to making sure your entire care team is healthy, all staff will continue to regularly wash hands every time they interact with a new patient. Depending on their role and the situation, they may also wear face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE) for their own safety.
  • Extra sanitizing and cleaning. When you are in an exam room, know that these rooms are thoroughly cleaned between patients and are held to the highest level of disinfecting standards. Common areas like waiting rooms are also sanitized frequently.
  • Pre-procedure testing. If you are coming in for a procedure or surgery, you will be tested for COVID-19. This test is necessary to make sure extra precautions are taken to keep surgical rooms safe and hospital staff protected.

“No matter what level of care you need, know we’ve made every effort to put you at the center of what we do,” says Dr. Chu.

What Is Expected Of You

You might be surprised to know that you also play a large role in maintaining the health and safety of others. It is important that all patients follow the guidelines in place to keep medical facilities safe for everyone. Here are ways you can help us maintain safety and consistency at the time of your visit:

  • Wear a face mask at all times. While conducting health screenings can reduce the risk of exposing people to illness, there is still a chance of having the virus but showing no symptoms. To avoid possibly exposing others, face masks should be worn as an extra safety precaution. If you don’t have a mask, one will be provided to you.
  • Make use of hand sanitizer as needed. Proper handwashing techniques are best for preventing the spread of the virus and other germs, but hand sanitizer can also help. At Henry Ford, hand sanitizer is available throughout our facilities for you to use at any point during your visit. (Keeping a small bottle in your purse or pocket whenever you’re out of the house is a good idea.)
  • Maintain social distancing. Follow any signage or instructions shared with you to make sure you are keeping a safe distance from other patients and staff. If you’re unclear on what you need to do, be sure to ask.
  • Adhere to visitor guidelines. For the time being, it is best to limit the number of people in our buildings. If you need someone to accompany you to your appointment, we ask that you bring just one person, if possible.

If you are still worried about coming to the doctor for an appointment or it’s not necessary to be seen in person, there are options available for you to receive care without needing a face-to-face visit. Virtual care visits allow you to connect with your doctor for various typical appointments or follow-up visits. If you need a prescription, the pharmacy can deliver medications to your home for free.

If you are looking for for minor health concerns, our walk-in clinics allow you to reserve your appointment slot online and will keep you updated on wait times so you can avoid spending extra time in a waiting room.

That being said, don’t let the COVID-19 pandemic prevent you from seeking care when you need it. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not wait. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

If you have questions about a minor or ongoing health concern, you can reach out to your primary care doctor for next steps.


To schedule an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). Learn more about our commitment to safety.

Dr. Betty Chu is the Chief Quality Officer for Henry Ford Health System. She works to set clinical standards focused on the quality of patient experiences across the system.

Categories: FeelWell