Protect Against COVID-19 – Get Vaccinated

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous disruption in each of our lives. North Hills Family Medicine cares deeply about your health and well-being. That’s why we encourage our patients to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated can bring you one step closer to enjoying the activities you miss. It is one of the most important things you can do to help protect yourself and your loved ones from this disease. Everyone 12 years of age and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Here are some of my answers to questions I’ve heard most often from patients:

  • Why should I get vaccinated? COVID-19 can cause serious illness or even death. There’s no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get sick, you could spread the disease to family, friends, and others around you. COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to help us stop the pandemic and get back to normal.
  • Are COVID-19 vaccines effective at preventing the disease? All COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are effective at preventing the disease. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
  • Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe? COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Over 100 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, and scientists are continuing to monitor their safety.
  • Will the shot make me sick? Will I have side effects? You may have side effects after vaccination, but these are normal signs that your body is building protection. The most common side effects are pain, redness, and swelling in the arm where you got the shot, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. If you have these side effects, they should go away within a few days. Serious safety problems are rare. But if you are concerned about them, please contact the clinic.

There are many places where you can get vaccinated, and it’s 100% free. You can

 

Continue Reading Protect Against COVID-19 – Get Vaccinated

COVID-19 Vaccine: Myth vs Fact

MYTH: I will have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine or I need to have insurance.

FACT: No. All vaccines are free to the public under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security). Any charges that are incurred for administration of the vaccine will be paid by your insurance company or the federal government’s Provider Relief Fund. Adapted from: UT Southwester Medical Center.


MYTH:
If I’ve already had COVID-19, I don’t need a vaccine.

FACT: People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 should still receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, we do not know how long natural immunity, or immunity from having COVID-19, will last and it is possible to be re-infected. Additionally, some studies have suggested that the immunity from the vaccine is better protection than the natural protection. Clinical trials will continue to monitor patients over the next 2 years, and we should have additional data in the next 6 months.  Adapted from: American Academy of Family Physicians and John Hopkins Medicine.


MYTH:
The vaccine research was rushed, so it cannot be safe or effective.

FACT: There is a well-established testing and clinical trial process that must be followed for the FDA to consider approving a vaccine. No steps were rushed or skipped in the creation of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines were done with the same rigor applied to all vaccine trials, and the results were reviewed and approved by multiple independent advisory panels. Increased collaboration, use of new technology and more funding meant that vaccine developers could work quickly during this pandemic.

For these COVID-19 vaccines, the research was performed concurrently, rather than consecutively, and the wait times for review of the research were substantially reduced through Operation Warp Speed, a federal program that invested in development and manufacturing of the vaccines.  Adapted from: John Hopkins Medicine and UT Southwester Medical Center.


MYTH:
Political factors influenced the vaccine authorization process.

FACT: An independent board of experts reviewed the trial and testing data. Career scientists – not politicians – at the FDA review the clinical trial data after receiving the recommendation from the independent monitoring board. And all of the clinical trial information will also be published in peer-reviewed journals, so the process is transparent and verifiable.  Adapted from: UT Southwester Medical Center.


MYTH:
The COVID-19 vaccines contain a microchip.

FACT: No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any microchip or any electric components. This false rumor started after comments about digital vaccine records. State electronic immunization records help patients and physicians track vaccines they have received. There are no electronic components in the vaccines. The mRNA, lipids (fat bubble), salts and other stabilizing agents are routinely used in other medicines.  Adapted from: American Academy of Family Physicians.


MYTH
: Getting the vaccine gives you COVID-19.

FACT: The vaccine for COVID-19 cannot give you COVID-19. The vaccine for COVID-19 cannot and will not give you COVID-19. The two authorized mRNA vaccines instruct your cells to reproduce a protein that is part of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which helps your body recognize and fight the virus. The COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not contain a live SARS-Co-2 virus, so you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.  Adapted from: John Hopkins Medicine.


MYTH:
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines can change your DNA.

FACT: No. The vaccines are designed to help your body’s immune system recognize and fight the coronavirus. While messenger RNA does enter your cell to stimulate your immune system, it does not enter the nucleus, where DNA resides.

mRNA vaccines work in the cell’s cytoplasm and never enter the cell nucleus, where the DNA, your genetic material, lives. It’s broken down quickly once it enters the cell and delivers the needed vaccine “message” to the cell’s machinery. The virus spike protein is also rapidly broken down once there is no longer any mRNA. The adenovirus platform uses DNA encoding the spike protein which does enter the nucleus. However, it does not alter the cell’s DNA in any way.  Adapted from: American Academy of Family Physicians.


MYTH:
If I get a COVID-19 vaccine, I will test positive for the virus.

FACT: No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. Neither can any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States.

If your body develops an immune response to vaccination, which is the goal, you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.  Adapted from: Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


MYTH:
The side effects of the vaccine are dangerous and can affect a women’s fertility.

FACT: Most people who received the vaccine had no or little side effect to the vaccine. The most commonly reported side effect was pain at the injection site, fever, and headache lasting a day or two. In addition, the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility. The COVID-19 vaccine encourages the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. This “teaches” the body’s immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it. While there are spike proteins that are involved in fertility, they are completely distinct and would not be affected by a COVID-19 vaccine.

The most common side effect is soreness at the injection site and headache, with most side effects lasting less than 48 hours. The reaction is typically a sign that the vaccine is working – triggering the immune response (or inflammation) indicating your body recognizes this virus and is mounting a protective response against it.

The clinical trials will continue to monitor patients for side effects long after patients are vaccinated.

Confusion regarding infertility arose when a false report surfaced on social media, saying that the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy.

During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo. Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially serious impact on pregnancy and the mother’s health.  Adapted from: John Hopkins Medicine.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Vaccine: Myth vs Fact

Now Scheduling Appointments for COVID Vaccine Clinic!

We are currently scheduling appointments for our COVID Vaccine Clinic! It is available to our patients as well as the public, ages 18 and up. To schedule an appointment, please CLICK HERE and complete the form. We will reach out to you via phone once you have been scheduled!

Continue Reading Now Scheduling Appointments for COVID Vaccine Clinic!

Face Covering Required at NHFM

In light of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-34 lifting COVID-19 restrictions on businesses across the state, NHFM would like to reinforce the importance of masking and other safety measures.

A mask/face covering is still required by everyone entering a North Hills Family Medicine office, even if a person is vaccinated.

While we continue to be encouraged by declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, along with increasing the amount of those that are vaccinated, we cannot ease up now.  We must continue to follow the evidence-based practices that have kept Texans safe over the past year.  With new COVID-19 variants quickly spreading across our communities, masking up, social distancing, and practicing hand hygiene is all the more important to protect each other, help stop the spread and reduce transmission of these mutations.

Thank you for understanding, and for doing your part in protecting our patients, families, and employees.

Continue Reading Face Covering Required at NHFM

COVID-19 Vaccine IS NOW UNAVAILABLE! APPOINTMENTS AT CAPACITY!

VACCINE APPOINTMENTS ARE CURRENTLY AT CAPACITY!  There is no waiting list at this time.  Please check with the local health department to find other providers offering COVID-19 nearby.  Feel free to check our website frequently if we are allocated more vaccines we will update everyone here!!

 

NHFM-NRH location is now offering Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.  We are serving phases 1a & 1b ONLY!

If you are an existing patient please make sure you are registered for the patient portal.  SUBMIT YOUR REQUEST VIA THE PORTAL.

IN ORDER TO SERVE YOU IN A CALMLY MANNER; DO NOT CALL THE CLINIC; SUBMIT ALL REQUEST VIA THE PATIENT PORTAL!

If you are not an existing patient;

  1. Please create & register on the patient portal
  2. Choose Moderna Vaccine as Provider
  3. Schedule a time for vaccination
  4. Send a composed message with your insurance information to staff

You will be required to show proof of your essential role.  Please bring a work badge with you to your appointment.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Vaccine IS NOW UNAVAILABLE! APPOINTMENTS AT CAPACITY!

COVID-19 Vaccines are Coming! Find Out When You Will Qualify

As the COVID-19 vaccines begin to be distributed, Texas has made guidelines of who will be vaccinated first and the projected timeline.  Currently, vaccines are in short supply, but as time passes, more and more will be widely available.

Vaccine allocations are decided by federal and state agencies. We will be receiving our first shipment of the Moderna vaccine and begin vaccinating frontline workers. The initial supplies will be very limited as companies need to supply multiple hospitals, health systems and other organizations who will be vaccinating people. We are in regular contact with those agencies and will be ready as the situation unfolds and more supplies are available.

Frontline healthcare workers are being prioritized by federal and state agencies to receive the vaccine. The most vulnerable patients will be vaccinated next, like those at skilled nursing facilities and those with certain high-risk health conditions.

Determine which of the following categories you fall in to help estimate when you will be vaccinated.

Who’s getting the vaccine first?
Front-line healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities are the first Texans to receive the vaccine, starting December. They are considered Phase 1A.

Phase 1A: Health Care Workers Definition

First Tier

  • Paid and unpaid workers in hospital settings working directly with patients who are positive or at high risk for COVID-19. Such as but not limited to:
    • Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other support staff (custodial staff, etc.)
    • Additional clinical staff providing supporting laboratory, pharmacy, diagnostic and/or rehabilitation services
    • Others having direct contact with patients or infectious materials
  • Long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents. Includes:
    • Direct care providers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state supported living centers
    • Physicians, nurses, personal care assistants, custodial, food service staff.
  • EMS providers who engage in 9-1-1 emergency services like pre-hospital care and transport
  • Home health care workers, including hospice care, who directly interface with vulnerable and high-risk patients
  • Residents of long-term care facilities

Second Tier

  • Staff in outpatient care settings who interact with symptomatic patients. Such as but not limited to:
    • Physicians, nurses, and other support staff (custodial staff, etc.)
    • Clinical staff providing diagnostic, laboratory, and/or rehabilitation services
    • Non 9-1-1 transport for routine care
    • Healthcare workers in corrections and detention facilities
  • Direct care staff in freestanding emergency medical care facilities and urgent care clinics
  • Community pharmacy staff who may provide direct services to clients, including vaccination or testing for individuals who may have COVID
  • Public health and emergency response staff directly involved in administration of COVID testing and vaccinations
  • Last responders who provide mortuary or death services to decedents with COVID-19. Includes:
    • Embalmers and funeral home workers who have direct contact with decedents
    • Medical examiners and other medical certifiers who have direct contact with decedents
  • School nurses who provide health care to students and teachers

Who’s getting the vaccine next and when?
Phase 1B vaccine recipients will likely be able to get the vaccine starting in January 2021. These include people 65 years of age and older, and people over age 16 with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at greater risk.

Phase 1B Vaccine Priorities:

  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as but not limited to:
    • Cancer
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
    • Solid organ transplantation
    • Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

When can everyone else get the vaccine?
Spring 2021 is the best estimate, but that may change. It depends on vaccine production and how quickly other vaccines become available.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Vaccines are Coming! Find Out When You Will Qualify

COVID-19 Antibody Testing is Now Available

COVID-19 antibody testing is now available. We are currently use the Catalyst Health Network drive-thru testing sites.

The test is done through a blood sample. You will simply drive up to the testing site at your appointment time and remain in your car. A healthcare team member will be with you to draw your blood. We ask that you remain in your car for 5 minutes before driving off to ensure no lightheadedness. Please come well-hydrated and be sitting on the appropriate side of the car with your preferred arm at the window. You do not need to be fasting for this.

The antibody testing detects the presence of the virus and identifies patients who have been exposed to or recovered from COVID-19. The antibody test is different from the molecular COVID-19 test, which is done with a nasal swab to check for the presence of the COVID-19 virus. After infection with COVID-19, the virus antigen stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that can be detected in the blood. Antibodies are produced by the immune system after a minimum 10 days of infection and remain positive after the infection. This is why the antibody test can be used to detect a past infection with COVID-19.

Below you will find some answers to some of the frequently asked questions.

How to get tested?

In order to document medical necessity, you will need to undergo a virtual telemedicine visit with one of our providers before the test can be ordered. Once this visit is completed, if you qualify for testing, we will arrange a time and location for you to get your blood drawn and one of our testing sites through Catalyst Health Network.

Who should get tested?

  • If you had symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath or flu-like symptoms), and want to know whether it was COVID-19 (but should be at least 7 days from onset of symptoms).
  • If you are asymptomatic, but may have potentially been exposed (close or proximate contact with a person known to be positive with COVID-19)
  • Individuals subject to precautionary or mandatory quarantine
  • Individuals employed as a health care worker, first responder, or essential workers who directly interacts with the public
  • Individuals present with a case where facts and circumstances warrant testing as determined by clinician or health officials
  • If you tested Positive for COVID-19 via Nasal Swab PCR – and want to see if you have produced antibodies that can be detected

Who should not take the test?

Those who are actively having symptoms should not be getting an antibody test done, rather a PCR nasal swab should be done.

If you have had symptoms, please wait at least 7-10 days to take the antibody test, counting from the START of your symptoms. Sensitivity is higher 16-29 days onwards. Antibodies take time to develop – taking the test too early may not give accurate results.

Why should I get tested for COVID-19 antibodies?

Patients who are tested and have the antibodies can use this information in a variety of ways. The risk of getting COVID-19 a second time is suspected to be very low. Individuals who are elderly or have underlying health conditions will benefit from understanding their risk so they can make informed decisions about how much isolation or socialization to resume. The COVID-19 antibody test will also provide important data on the scale of coronavirus infections in our community.

DISCLAIMER: The scientific understanding regarding antibody test interpretation needs further research. Recommendations rely on presumptions made based on experience with similar coronaviruses

What should I do if I have missed or am late for my appointment?

Missed or late arrival will result in forfeiting your appointment. It is important to us that you get the testing that your PCP has recommended! Call the Catalyst Hotline at (214) 964-0319 to let our team know that you have missed or are late to your appointment so we can place you back in queue to be rescheduled according to testing site availability.

What is antibody testing, and how does it differ from diagnostic testing used for COVID-19?

Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 involves looking to see whether an active virus is present. This uses a testing process to detect genetic material from the virus in samples swabbed from the very back of the nasal cavity. This testing is based on a common molecular testing technique: polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

By contrast, antibody testing (also called serology testing) is done with blood samples, because you’re looking for evidence of the body’s immune response to the virus.

After your body is exposed to a foreign pathogen, your white blood cells start to learn about it and make antibodies to neutralize it. So, when an antibody test comes back positive for this coronavirus, it means 1) you were exposed to COVID-19 at some point in the past and 2) your immune system was robust enough to launch an antibody-forming immune response.

What antibodies are tested?

IgM and IgG are tested.

When infected by a virus like COVID-19, the body initially produces antibodies known as IgM (immunoglobulin-M), in an attempt to neutralize the virus. Later, as the body’s adaptive immune system revs up, IgM levels go down, and the body ramps up production of IgG, which more specifically targets the viral invader. IgG ideally is what shows us immunity.

How soon after symptoms can antibodies be detected?

Antibodies can be detected as soon as 7 days after symptom onset. After 7 days, antibodies begin to increase. By day 10-12 after symptom onset, antibodies can be detected in up to 80% of patients and by days 16-29 after symptom onset, antibodies can be detected in all patients.

However, you must note that every person is different. Certain conditions can affect people’s ability to make antibodies, such as: malnourishment, having cancer or another chronic health condition, or taking immune suppressing drugs.

How is the antibody testing done?

The COVID-19 antibody test is a simple blood draw. We then send the sample to our lab and will have results in an average of 1-3 days.

What do Negative antibody test results mean?
A negative antibody test can mean one of these possibilities:
1. You were never exposed
2. Your body has not produced enough antibodies to be detected
3. Your body needs more time to produce antibodies after exposure
4. False negatives – testing limitations.
*Note that some studies show that up to 1/3 of people have low-titers or even absent antibodies after recovering from COVID.

We recommend for you to still wear a mask when in public places, wash your hands on a regular basis and continue to practice social distancing

Please discuss the results with your healthcare provider to discuss your risks and if you are contagious to others.

What do Positive antibody test results mean?

The short answer is we don’t know.

Patients with positive antibody results presumably have been exposed and would be considered low risk for becoming infected.

However, it may mean someone has full immunity or partial immunity or no immunity at all. Some antibodies decrease over time, so you might be immune for six months to a year, and then maybe not at all later on. Or, it might mean where if you get it once, you’re most likely immune the rest of your life. There’s just no way to give definitive answers right now.

A positive antibody test does not mean that you are symptoms free and not able to shed the virus. Please consult your healthcare provider when assessing the results of the antibody test.

We recommend for you to still wear a mask when in public places, wash your hands on a regular basis and continue to practice social distancing

Why is it important for people not to assume they’re immune if they test positive for COVID-19 antibodies?

There’s a big difference between telling someone they have immunity versus that they may have immunity. That’s a really important distinction to make. Because if someone says that they’re definitely going to give me a million dollars, I may go out and buy a new house. But if they tell me they may give me a million dollars, I probably won’t, because it’s not a promise. It’s only potential.

With this virus, we just don’t know the answer yet. We can only advise patients that they may have immunity if the antibody test is positive. So, even if you were to test positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, we recommend for you to still wear a mask when in public places, wash your hands on a regular basis and continue to practice social distancing.

What restrictions/downfall does antibody testing have?

Antibody results:

  • are not diagnostic-meaning they cannot be used to diagnose an active infection or tell when a person is no longer contagious.
  • do not rule out infection or viral shedding.
  • are not a guarantee that you will not get COVID-19.

The antibody testing has not been FDA approved, however the FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

Continue Reading COVID-19 Antibody Testing is Now Available

NHFM ASKS THAT ALL PATIENTS MUST WEAR A MASK WHILE VISITING THE CLINIC

The CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

In light of this new evidence, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. At North Hills Family Medicine, it is now required that all patients must wear a mask while visiting the clinic.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. The CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

Cloth face coverings should—

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Tutorials can be found here for making a mask at home.

Continue Reading NHFM ASKS THAT ALL PATIENTS MUST WEAR A MASK WHILE VISITING THE CLINIC

Protecting Your Mental Health

Maintaining your mental health during isolation and social distancing can be challenging. This is even more important when we are out of our normal routine and lack connection with our social network. The tips and resources below are designed to support you during this time.

WHAT TO EXPECT: TYPICAL REACTIONS

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations such as an infectious disease outbreak that requires social distancing, quarantine, or isolation.

People may feel anxiety, worry, or fear related to:

  • Your own health status
  • The health status of others whom you may have exposed to the disease
  • The resentment that your friends and family may feel if they need to go into quarantine as a result of contact with you
  • The experience of monitoring yourself, or being monitored by others for signs and symptoms of the disease
  • Time taken off from work and the potential loss of income and job security
  • The challenges of securing things you need, such as groceries and personal care items
  • Concern about being able to effectively care for children or others in your care
  • Uncertainty or frustration about how long you will need to remain in this situation, and uncertainty about the future
  • Loneliness associated with feeling cut off from the world and from loved ones
  • Stigmatization: If you are sick or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you may feel stigmatized by others who fear they will contract the illness if they interact with you.
  • Anger if you think you were exposed to the disease because of others’ negligence
  • Boredom and frustration because you may not be able to work or engage in regular day-to-day activities
  • Uncertainty or ambivalence about the situation
  • A desire to use alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, changes in appetite, or sleeping too little or too much
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as intrusive distressing memories, flashbacks (reliving the event), nightmares, changes in thoughts and mood, and being easily startled

If you or a loved one experience any of these reactions for 2 to 4 weeks or more, contact your health care provider

EXISTING CONDITIONS

Those with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans and monitor for any new symptoms. If you notice any changes, contact your healthcare provider right away.  You may inquire about televisits (virtual visits) to help avoid exposures.

WAYS TO SUPPORT YOURSELF

  • UNDERSTAND THE RISK: Consider the real risk of harm to yourself and others around you. The public perception of risk during a situation is often inaccurate. Media coverage may create the impression that people are in immediate danger when really the risk for infection may be very low. Take steps to get the facts:
    • Stay up to date on what is happening, while limiting your media exposure. Avoid watching or listening to news reports 24/7 since this tends to increase anxiety and worry. Remember that children are especially affected by what they hear and see on television.
    • Look to credible sources for information on the infectious disease outbreak
    • Accentuate the positives: Focus on what you are able to do during this time. You’re finally home — organize, read, rest, cook, and play. Take advantage of the time this provides.
    • Separate what is in your control from what is not. There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those. Wash your hands.  Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of news (Do you really need to know what is happening on a cruise ship you aren’t on?).
    • Create a schedule in order to encourage yourself to stay both mentally and physically active. This will also provide you with something to look forward to!
    • When bored, be careful to manage alcohol consumption, vaping, and overeating – these are habits that can be hard to break.
    • Connecting with others about your concerns and how you’re feeling will allow those feelings to surface and will provide you with a sounding board for them. Facebook groups have already formed to facilitate communication and support among individuals asked to quarantine.
    • Practice anxiety management breathing techniques, such as 4-7-8 breathing
      • To start, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise
      • Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breath in
      • Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7
      • Breath out completely as you count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
      • Repeat 3 to 7 times or until you feel calm
    • Use social media to stay connected to other people (If you see posts that are causing stress, take a break by turning it off)
    • Call or facetime your friends as opposed to only texting – this allows you to open up more with the other person and feel connected
    • For those who find it therapeutic, turn to your Bible, prayer, or religion
    • If you feel yourself in a panicked state or anxiety spiking, stop immediately and USE ALL FIVE SENSES.
      • LOOK around and focus on one thing in the room
      • Tune in to one NOISE
      • Allow one SMELL to fill your nose
      • Smack your tongue and notice any residue TASTE
      • FEEL your feet on the floor
      • Repeat

TIPS FOR WORKING REMOTELY

  • Create a dedicated workspace that’s clean and free of distractions
  • Set an alarm like a normal workday
  • Get ready like you are going to leave the house
    • Get dressed
    • Brush or fix your hair
    • For those who wear it, do your make up – even if minimal
    • Eat breakfast
    • Brush your teeth
  • Do your best to adhere to a working schedule
    • Set an alarm to remind you to take breaks
    • Consider using an app like Time Out to remind you to take a breather
    • Don’t forget to eat lunch and/or healthy snacks during your breaks
  • Maintain a work connection.
    • Maintain a connection to the office by choosing to make calls rather than sending emails, and keep in contact with your department members via video conferencing.
  • When family or children are at home with you
    • Set expectations of your workspace being “off-limits” to limit interruptions
    • During your breaks, spend extra quality time with those in your home

Additional Resources

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • Crisis Text Line Anxious about coronavirus? Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.
  • Time Out: This downloadable application reminds you throughout the day to take a breather
  • TalkSpace: Visit Talkspace.com or download the Android or iPhone app.  This is a paid service.
  • BetterHelp: Visit Betterhelp.com.  This is a paid service.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Continue Reading Protecting Your Mental Health

NHFM is Now Offering Virtual Visits

As concerns grow over community-spread COVID-19, North Hills Family Medicine is now offering virtual visits with the hope of keeping sick patients at home and reducing exposures in the office. A virtual visit is an appointment with your provider during which live video is used. All aspects and quality of the visit are similar to an in-person visit, except you don’t have to commute to the clinic.

Your first virtual visit (telehealth visit) might feel intimidating, but it shouldn’t worry you one bit.  With some preparation, you can be sure to have a great first visit and finish the session satisfied, and not feeling like the technology was at all a hindrance to connecting with your provider.

The platform that we use is Zoom, one of the industry leading providers for secure, efficient video conferencing that allows us to provide HIPAA compliant, secure visits. Virtual visits are never recorded and are encrypted to ensure privacy.

Here are some tips to make your virtual visit a success.

  1. Choose an appropriate setting and technology

What you will need:

      • Either a laptop with a camera or a smart phone with a camera.
      • Internet connection/wireless connection
      • Private area

Plan ahead to make sure that you have a private setting for the entire duration of the appointment.  Most individuals have the appointment in their home or apartment, but on occasion, some individuals need to leave their home, go out to their vehicle or to a nearby park.  If you are going to be at work, you might want to schedule the appointment during your lunch break so that you can step away easily.

  1. Installing Zoom on your device.

You must have Zoom downloaded on your device, but you do not need to create a Zoom account.  Zoom usually downloads automatically when you click the meeting link that is emailed to you when your appointment is made., but you can install Zoom before the appointment on your device here: https://zoom.us/support/download

Zoom is available to be installed on a laptop, iPhone or Android device.

  1. Checking your internet speed

Having fast, reliable internet is integral to the visit.  If your bandwidth/speed is slow, the video will lay and cut out causing a frustrating experience.  For some people in poor cellular coverage areas, this means getting on a wifi network.  If you live in a city, and have good cellular signal strength, you can most likely use your cell service, but keep in mind that if you use your cellular network, the data transferred will add to your monthly limit.

To help you decide which network to use, go here to check your wifi speed. Greater than 10 mb/s on download and upload is recommended. If you are getting less than 10 mb/s, consider changing your network. If you are not getting internet speed greater than 1 mb/sec, you will not have a good experience and we recommend postponing the appointment until you can find faster internet.

  1. Testing Zoom

Now that you have made sure you have a reliable internet connection and download/upload speed, you should test your device to make sure the setting are correct to work properly with zoom.  The easiest way to do this is to joint a test meeting at: https://zoom.us/test

You will want to make sure you:

      • Give your computer/device permission to use the camera and audio.
      • Can see yourself in the app. If you see your name, or an icon, then your camera is not working properly.
      • Do not have an external speaker or headphones that will automatically connect unexpectedly.
      • Consider using the ‘Test my Audio’ feature within Zoom: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362283-Testing-Computer-or-Device-Audio?mobile_site=true It will have you speak into the microphone, and then it will replay the sound back to you.
  1. Video Tips

If your provider can’t see you well, it will make it more difficult for him/her to pick up on certain non-verbal cues. By ensuring we can see you, we will be able to understand you better, leaving you more satisfied that you delivered your point to us. In addition, insurance requires that we can see you, otherwise it is not considered a telehealth (virtual) session and is not covered by insurance.

      • Try to maximize front-facing lighting, and minimize lighting behind you.
      • Try to have most of your upper torso visible, from about your abdomen and up including your arms.
      • If using a phone, prop it up to make it more steady. A stable image would be very much appreciated by your provider, and will help you take your mind off having to hold your phone.
  1. Logging into your Appointment

When your appointment was scheduled an email was sent to your email address provided that contains the Meeting ID.  You will simply click the link and it will take you to the appointment.  You may join ahead of your appointment time and will wait for the provider to join the virtual visit.

If you have not joined the meeting by your appointment time, the provider or a nurse may call you directly asking you to join in.

If you have any problems joining or did not receive the email, please contact the office.

If for any reason the provider is concerned that additional testing is needing (i.e.: Flu test, Strep test, COVID-19 testing) we will instruct you to drive to the clinic and we will have a nurse with appropriate protective gear meet you at your car to conduct testing.

Please call the office today to schedule your appointment.

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