Just as the country began opening back up, the COVID-19 delta variant swept through and has us reverting to masks, sourdough bread making, at-home workouts and more movie nights in the comfort of our living rooms. It remains important to focus on the things we can control, like our routine medical visits.
The CDC recommends that people with diabetes see their health care provider every three months to track diabetes goals and progress, including A1C and blood sugar levels, and adjust their treatment plans if needed. Yet since the start of the pandemic, nearly half of Americans have skipped or delayed medical care, which has led to worsening conditions. For people with diabetes, this means a higher risk for developing complications like heart disease and stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage and amputations.
If you’re still unsure about scheduling a routine doctor’s appointment, here are four ways to return to care safely to keep your A1C and insulin levels in check:
1. Determine if an in-person or virtual visit is best for you
Depending on your comfort level with returning to care, you’ll need to decide if an in-person or telehealth appointment is right for you. Routine health screenings, such as cholesterol, blood pressure and kidney function tests, need to be done at a doctor’s office regularly to ensure there are no diabetes complications, or that complications have not progressed. A1C tests and insulin monitoring can be done at home. In fact, A1C test kits are almost as precise as lab tests, typically accurate within plus or minus 0.5 percentage points.
“It’s important for me to return to a regular in-person endocrinologist appointment, because during telehealth, my doctor can’t listen to my heart, perform foot checks or take my blood pressure. And these are things that need to be done at every visit to make sure that I’m in the best health I can be,” Karen Graffeo, content manager at DiabetesSisters, said. “My advice to others who are considering navigating diabetes management and returning to healthcare is do it and keep in contact with your healthcare team.”
If you decide to go virtual for your upcoming visit, please visit https://lillydiabetes.com/telehealth for tips and resources on how to prepare for a telehealth appointment.
2. Wear a facial covering regardless of state requirements
Whether your state currently has a mask mandate in place or not, the best way to stay safe when returning to care is by wearing a facial covering over your nose and mouth. According to the CDC, multi-layer cloth masks can block up to 50-70% of respiratory droplets, significantly diminishing the risk of getting COVID-19. If you want to reduce your risk the most, an N-95 mask is recommended.
3. Practice social distancing wherever possible
From the moment you enter the doctor’s building, the CDC recommends practicing social distancing.
If you need to stand in an elevator with others, stand on opposite ends or wait for the next, less crowded, elevator. In the waiting room, leave at least one or two chairs between you and other patients. When in the examination room with your doctor, stay 6 feet apart unless they are doing physical examinations, such as blood pressure monitoring or temperature checks.
Social distancing alone reduces your risk of transmitting the disease by 90%, but this is not a substitute for wearing a mask – both need to be done to keep you as safe as possible when returning to care.
4. Avoid high-touch points in the lobby and doctor’s office
Wherever possible, the CDC recommends avoiding areas of the lobby and office that are commonly touched by others, like elevator buttons, credit card machines and arms of chairs in the waiting room. If you must touch these surfaces, use a tissue to touch them or wipe with a sanitation wipe first.
Since touching a contaminated surface alone won’t give you COVID-19, you should avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes afterward so the virus doesn’t enter the body and cause infection. If you encounter one of these high-touch areas, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands as soon as possible.
Scheduling an appointment with your doctor to manage your diabetes is more important now than ever with more people contracting the delta variant and deprioritizing routine visits. Now you know how to safely return to care and get back to your best, healthy self.
#ReturnToA1C is Lilly’s initiative to encourage those living with diabetes to continue to regularly check their A1C levels and talk to their healthcare providers about maintaining diabetes care in a changing environment. To join the conversation and encourage others to return to care, share how you’ve safely returned to your regular healthcare visits to manage your diabetes – whether in person or virtually—using the #ReturnToA1C on social media.