As of 3/26/2020, Illinois has had 1865 of confirmed cases of corona virus and 19 deaths. This surge may be an artifact of higher availabilty of testing for active disease -- there is no test right now for being immune to the corona virus. As of 3/18/2020, Illinois's governer has shut down restaurants, bars, and most commerce. As of 3/21/2020, Illinois went to a "shelter in place" mode, expected to continue for 2 weeks. As the # of cases are increasing slowly, and overload is not apparent right now, in retrospect, perhaps this was a little premature. Current information about the Coronavirus in our area can be found on the Northwestern Medicine Coronavirus Webpage.
The coronavirus is mainly a respiratory pathogen, and does not seem to be a source of dizziness. We expect that almost all of the US population will get coronavirus, although most will not know if they had it or not. There are probably far more (i.e. at least 5 fold) infections rapidly spreading in the community than are being recognized. We support the steps recommended by the CDC to reduce the speed that it is transmitted, i.e. "flatten the curve", hoping that this will reduce deaths caused by hospital overload.
What we are doing:
CDH, being a medical practice, is considered an essential business to keep running and is not required to completely shut down (yet anyway), but we are hugely scaling back. We stopped "in person" visits to the clinic, starting on 3/24/2020. We are showing up at the office with a reduced staff, answering the telephone, refilling prescriptions, and offering "televisits".
We have made many changes to prevent transmission of the virus. There are no hand shakes with anybody, we now take the temperature of all people entering the clinic (including staff), we use gloves, and wipe down surfaces like door knobs, etc. Our waiting room chairs are widely spaced out. We take everyone's temperature and will send people home if > 100. This will also hold once we open up for in-person visits again (hopefully in 2 weeks).
We are offering (temporarily) televisits -- i.e. telephone or computer video appointments for situations such as once/year follow-up visits for Meniere's patients. This means that we will go through the same process as we do for "live" visits (i.e. get out your chart, go through our Epic EMR to see what has been going on with other doctors, discuss your symptoms with you, refill medications as needed), but we do not expect you to be here in person.
For televisits, we will bill your insurance using the telehealth codes. According to an update from our contracting organization, there is some telemedicine coverage through Medicare, Aetna, BCBS, but not for Cigna or for most Humana. United HealthCare has "expanded" telehealth coverage, but this currently does not apply to their "Medicare Advantage" product. This seems pretty messy, but we will do our best for a month or so to use telehealth to take care of our patients. If your insurance does not cover telehealth, we will bill at the self-pay rate. We will discontinue telehealth after the pandemic is over.
Persons over the age of 65 are more vulnerable than younger people. If you are in this age range and are scheduled in the next 2 months, we will call you and ask if you would like to be scheduled for your visit at 2 months out from now. We have revised our schedule about 2 months from now to make more room than usual to make up.