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In the midst of a global pandemic, like most people, you’re probably just trying to keep your head above water, you’re in survival mode.  If you’re like most physicians, the way you practice medicine changed almost overnight. You’ve probably been available around the clock, trying to either see patients while keeping yourself safe, or learning telemedicine in about five minutes. Patients are also stressed, scared and anxious, and so are you. During these difficult times, we want to not only send out a huge thank you, but a simple reminder to take care of yourself first.  The following are some tips to help you navigate the challenges of a new era in healthcare. Now more than ever, we need to get back to the basics.

Physician Wellness and COVID-19

To best care for your patients, you can’t forget to take care of yourself. This means taking your own advice. Listen to yourself, what are you telling your patients? Make sure you’re eating right, getting exercise, practicing self-care, keeping calm and getting enough rest. Of course you are, now, you take that advice too. Now more than ever, your focus should be on making sure your basic needs are met as well. This is certainly difficult with so many pressures, but so incredibly necessary, if you don’t take care of yourself first, who will be there for your patients and family?  You and your patients can use the [1] SENS Solution® principles to help stay healthy, centered and balanced.  

Get Enough Sleep

I know what you’re thinking, impossible.  Even if it seems impossible right now, it is important to make sure you get enough sleep, or as much as possible. You know that with the increased demands that you’re facing as a physician now, depriving yourself of sleep can have a detrimental effect on your immune system [2] and take a big toll on your physical, and emotional well-being. You’re giving your patients this advice right? Set the example!

Find A Few Minutes to Exercise 

We all know that exercise has positive effects, both mentally and physically. Even in very small doses, it can do wonders for your mood.   Try to fit in some basic cardio on your lunch break, take the dog for a quick walk, or just do a few jumping jacks to reduce stress, increase endorphins and boost your immune system. Don’t think you need to do a full gym workout – any exercise is better than no exercise! 

Don’t Forget Nutrition 

When you’re working non-stop, it can be easy to forget the basics – eating healthy and regularly. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day and eat enough fruits and vegetables to get the nutrients and antioxidants you need. Try keeping some easy healthy snacks on hand, like almonds, granola bars, yogurt and fresh fruit to snack on whenever you can.  Supplements were basically designed for times like these, so if you know you’re not getting the right nutrients through food right now, you can still help to give your body what it needs to get by. 

Manage Stress 

It’s easy for the strongest of people to get overwhelmed in a time like this.  First tip, let it go.  If you need to cry at the end of a tough day on the front line, cry, let it out. Acknowledging your emotions is the first step to managing them. In a recent webinar on Emotional Wellness by Dr. Gabriella Farkas, she suggests a quick breathing exercise, meditation or a gratitude practice.  Focusing on the positive as hard as that may be at time, can truly make a big difference in recharging your battery.  Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to your support network or trusted colleagues if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember, we’re all in this together.      

Helping Your Patients Stay Well

Your patients are relying on you now more than ever for answers and information. Since there is a lot of misinformation regarding COVID-19, [3] you might have to be the one to give your patients the facts. To help ease their minds, consider sending out an e-mail newsletter. This is a great way to stay connected and keep your patients informed and educated, from their most trusted source, you! Include tips on how to stay healthy, (see above) knowing how to identify symptoms, when to call a doctor, and when to go to the emergency room. People don’t think as logically as they normally do in a time like this.  Right now, people really need a guide.  By being proactive and giving your patients the information they need you can definitely help manage your time better and help ease the burden on the healthcare system a bit too. 

Maintaining a Healthy Practice

As if it wasn’t already increasingly difficult to navigate a successful, profitable private practice before the current chaos, now physicians are faced with an even greater challenge.  Now would be a good time to do a business “checkup.” 

Telemedicine to Help Care for Patients AND Boost Revenue Now

If you haven’t already, you should immediately begin exploring telemedicine options for your practice. Many physicians are relying on telemedicine to continue to practice in the safest manner possible in the wake of Covid-19 while keeping revenue up at the same time. Many more insurance companies have started covering telemedicine and often at a higher reimbursement than before. Even Medicare now covers telehealth visits as well as virtual check-ins. [4] 

RPM to Help Boost Revenue Later 

Even if your practice is losing revenue now due to a reduction in office visits, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) can help protect your practice’s financial health by generating income now and later. RPM can also help you continue to treat patients who don’t have COVID-19 and may not feel comfortable coming into the office, as well as patients who have tested positive and have to remain in quarantine.  It’s a win win,

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[1] Sara Berg. March 20, 2020. 6 ways to address physician stress during COVID-19 pandemic. American Medical Association. Retrieved from  https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/6-ways-address-physician-stress-during-covid-19-pandemic

[2] Bobbi Nodell. January 27, 2017. Chronic sleep deprivation suppresses immune system. Science Daily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170127113010.htm

[3] No author. April 3, 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019: Myth vs. Fact. John Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/2019-novel-coronavirus-myth-versus-fact

[4] No author. March 17, 2020. Medicare Telemedicine Health Care Provider Fact Sheet. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/medicare-telemedicine-health-care-provider-fact-sheet

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