AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Regional Clinic has launched a COVID-19 hotline to help keep people aware and informed. The clinic is also implementing additional procedures in clinics for the safety of patients and staff.
ARC's COVID-19 information and advice hotline is 24/7 and will provide advice on self-care and treatment recommendations. The hotline number is 866-453-4525.
ARC says in a release that patients do have the option of scheduling an appointment if needed or speaking with a nurse. Staff will meet patients at clinic entrances under a tent at the outdoor entrance, outside doors or inside the medical office building before they enter for appointments.
Patients will then be screened for symptoms of potential flu-like illness. ARC says the screening procedure is used to decide how to guide the patient through the clinic and that the protocol will apply to all visits at all clinics, both primary and specialty care.
For those without a fever or flu-like symptoms or anyone in their household diagnosed with COVID-19, the procedure is as follows:
- Enter the clinic and check-in as usual
- Wait in regular waiting area and be called back for appointment as usual
- Waiting area will include patients who have been screened and do not have symptoms or any family members who have been diagnosed with COVID-19
For those who do have symptoms or someone in their household diagnosed with COVID-19, the procedure is as follows:
- Greeter will collect information and check the patient in
- Patient will be asked to return to their car or another agreed-upon spot separate from patients without symptoms and wait for an ARC guide
- Patients are asked to bring their cell phone with them to help clinic staff contact them. If the patient doesn't have a cell phone, ARC staff will make other arrangements
- When ready, an ARC guide will meet the patient, put a mask on them and escort them to their exam room
ARC is discouraging visitors, but those who need to be accompanied by a friend or family member can be. ARC is limiting visitors to one healthy adult per patient and visitors will be screened before entering the clinic. Any visitors with symptoms of any viral illness will be required to wait outside the clinic.
ARC also answered some common questions concerning COVID-19 in the release.
How should I take care of myself or family members if I suspect COVID-19 or test positive?
ARC says the best course of treatment in the majority of cases is to stay home and treat symptoms with over-the-counter medications.
ARC doctors recommend the following:
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headache, body aches, fever and pain
- Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your fever get better as your body works to fight the virus
- Get plenty of rest
- Stay well hydrated and drink plenty of warm liquids such as broth or tea
- Use cough drops or an over-the-counter cough suppressant as needed
- Patients can use honey (2 teaspoons, 10 ml for adults) at bedtime to help decrease coughing at night
- Avoid smoking to protect your lungs from infection
- Continue home isolation for 14 days from the start of symptoms, even if you are feeling better
Why isn’t everyone being tested?
ARC says there is currently a shortage of swabbing and testing supplies in the U.S., so ARC is not testing every patient with symptoms. Testing decisions are made by your doctor, consistent with current guidelines, at the time of your visit.
ARC says the current capacity of testing labs to run the tests is limited, though that capability is expected to expand. The majority of cases, especially in children and young adults, are mild to moderate and patients are expected to fully recover in those cases.
"We understand and agree that testing will eliminate uncertainty, we hope to do more testing when testing supplies and/or laboratory testing capacity is more readily available," ARC said and added that test results in most cases will not change the treatment plan unless the patient is at a high risk or experiences more severe symptoms.
When should I call my doctor?
ARC says patients should call their doctors if they experience the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Worsening cough or fever
- If you think you need to be seen
ARC says seeking emergency care is rarely recommended for mild to moderate COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms unless you are having severe or progressive shortness of breath, chest pain, unable to keep fluids down or progressive drowsiness.
Can I be tested for immunity if I had COVID-19 like symptoms (fever and cough) several weeks ago?
ARC says there is no test at this time that tell if the virus that causes COVID-19 was already in a patient's system. Currently, available testing only confirms active infection.
Can I do a video visit with my ARC doctor?
ARC says it has a limited number of video visits we can do at this time, though they are expanding that service over the next several days. If a clinic visit can be changed to a video visit, ARC will contact the patient in advance.