Posted: Saturday, March 21, 2020

Physicians Group Alters Appointment Schedules

The Blount Memorial Physicians Group, which represents 23 medical specialties, is making changes to the way it schedules appointments, effective Monday, March 23, in an effort to provide its patients the most-appropriate type of appointment for sick and well visits.

Beginning Monday, each office in the Blount Memorial Physicians Group will begin scheduling appointments during specific times of the day based on whether you need a sick visit or a well visit. Well visits will take place during the morning hours, and sick visits will be available only in the afternoon. This allows each clinic to undergo an even-deeper-than-normal clean each night, after hours, to prepare for the next day’s well visits.

Additionally, at its largest office location, East Tennessee Medical Group, patients will also be directed to enter a specific entrance based on the type of visit they are coming in to complete. Sick patients will be directed to enter through the CareToday Clinic, and those patients who are coming to East Tennessee Medical Group for routine visits and diagnostic testing, including imaging exams or blood work, should enter through the front entrance.

The two areas will be separated by a drop-down door, which typically only is used on weekends. This physical barricade will help to keep sick patients on one side of the building and well patients on the other, and the patients’ doctors will see patients in both areas using the appropriate personal protective equipment.

“We are making changes in the way we see patients for their health care needs,” says Cory Everett, Blount Memorial Physicians Group director and hospital assistant administrator, who points out that staggered timeslots and separate entry points help limit potential patient interactions and can offer some patients peace of mind about coming to their regular appointments, which he says are important for a number of the practice’s patients.

“Many of our patients have routine appointments that help manage conditions that, if left untreated, can create significant health complications that may outweigh their potential risk of exposure to COVID-19. We want to ensure those patients that they can continue to present to any of our clinics to maintain that care.”

Everett also emphasizes to the practice’s patients that they are encouraged to call their provider’s office prior to coming in for an appointment, especially if they are experiencing fever and flu-like symptoms, including a cough and shortness of breath. “Our office staffs are then able to direct you to the most appropriate area to go, which may include a trip through the COVID-19 drive-through testing center at ETMG.”

The drive-through testing center remains operational from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Fridays. It is available to any Blount County resident or any patient of the Blount Memorial Physicians Group, regardless of their county of residence. “We have a lot of patients who live outside of Blount County but who have trusted their health care to a provider in the Blount Memorial Physicians Group, and the testing center is a resource for those individuals, even if they don’t live in our community.” Requirements for testing include meeting specific criteria, and tests are not being administered on request or demand.

While calling ahead prior to seeking medical care is something that Everett is encouraging those with respiratory-related symptoms to do, he reminds our community that they should never delay seeking emergency care when minutes matter. “Call ahead as much as possible and let your 911 operator or EMS teams know if you’re having respiratory-related symptoms or if you may have been exposed to COVID-19, but don’t forgo getting immediate help in emergency situations.

“We know that medical emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes and traumas will continue to happen, and we want to be sure that we’re taking care of those medical emergencies, too, and not just being ready to care for COVID-19 patients.”

Everett reminds patients, too, that recent federal expansions for telehealth options have been made in the last week, and that in some cases, virtual or phone visits may be appropriate options. Physicians and their office staffs within the practice began using these options on Thursday and Friday of last week, as they were deemed the best option for patient care.

“That’s why it’s best to call your physician’s office and talk to them about what’s going on with you,” he says.

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