As we all reflect on a difficult year that has passed dealing with COVID-19 and hope for a healthier and more normal 2021, we here at Houston Thyroid and Endocrine Specialists wanted to provide some guidance and clarification about our role concerning COVID-19 and the vaccines which are now approved for use and becoming available. Please be aware that we are not infectious disease specialists and so may not be best suited to address many of the questions concerning COVID-19 and that we do not personally manage COVID-19 infections.
Also as the vaccines are very new and there is somewhat limited data about side effects and all of the benefits, it needs to be understood that some questions concerning the vaccine can be difficult to answer at this time. PLEASE REFER TO THE CDC WEBSITE FOR DETAILED AND THE MOST UP TO DATE ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS CONCERNING COVID-19 AND THE VACCINES- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html. That being said, we feel that based on the data available at this time, the COVID-19 vaccines appear to be fairly safe and effective and we feel strongly that the vaccines will be one of the important ways of controlling the spread of COVID-19 infections in the months to come.
Here are a list of the some of the more commonly asked questions that we have received recently:
1) Do you recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
We feel that the COVID-19 vaccines will be an important way for all of our patients to avoid serious COVID infections but particularly those at higher risk of serious infections which include those with Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, Cancer, Obesity or the elderly age >65. Please refer to the CDC website for a more detailed list of high-risk groups but be aware that based on current data, many of our patients are NOT at this time considered high-risk for serious COVID infections including: Hypothyroidism/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's/Graves' disease, Thyroid Nodules, Prediabetes, Osteoporosis, PCOS, Hypogonadism, Menopause, Pituitary disease, Parathyroid disease, Adrenal disease, Ovarian disease and High Cholesterol.
2) Should I avoid the COVID-19 vaccine with my current medical conditions (ie. Diabetes, hypertension, etc) ?
There are virtually no medical conditions that should prevent our patients from receiving the COVID vaccines that are currently available except for those with severe allergic reaction (ie. anaphylaxis) to the ingredients in the COVID vaccines- these ingredients can be found on the FDA website: https://www.fda.gov/home.
3) Will you be providing the COVID-19 vaccine in your office?
We do not and will not provide any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, in our office and generally recommend patients receive all vaccinations from either their PCP or at their local pharmacy. We have not heard where or when the vaccines will become available to the public but we suspect that when they are available it will be through PCP offices and pharmacies.
4) Do you know where i can get the COVID vaccine?
Currently we do not know when or where the COVID vaccine will be available to the public. We have not gotten any notifications about where to direct patients to get vaccines and are, unfortunately, not able to help expedite or help put patients on lists to get the vaccine. We are also not aware that writing letters or communicating with other clinics concerning our patients' specific medical problems will in any way to help to make sure that the vaccine will be available to any of our patients.
5) Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause you to get the COVID infection?
Although some people may develop mild flu-like symptoms after the COVID-19 vaccine, there is no evidence that you can get the COVID-19 infection from the vaccines.
We ask that any further questions or information concerning the vaccine such as whether you should receive it after already having had COVID-19 infection or questions about the details of the side effects or the benefits, be directed to the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html or to your PCP. If you would like to further discuss your specific endocrine disorder as it related to COVID-19, please contact our office to schedule a televisit with your endocrinologist by clicking here. Thank you and happy holidays as we wish everyone a healthy start to the new year.
Dear New and Established Patients,
We would like to minimize the risk of exposure from COVID-19 in the safest way possible by making necessary changes. Please, if you have been exposed or are experiencing any symptoms (fever, cough, loss of taste) contact the office prior to your appointment so that we may make arrangements for you to conduct a televisit with your physician.
Televisit vs Office Appointment
We understand you may not feel entirely comfortable coming into the office just yet, and that is ok. If you have an appointment already set for an in-office visit, please inform the office that you would like to conduct a televisit ASAP so that we may change it within the system and to connect with you online. Otherwise, please show up for your appointment at your scheduled time.
If you need to reschedule to another day, please let us know. We will continue to try and make accommodations as much as we can with our limited schedule.
Patients are expected to wear a mask when entering the office and while conducting their visit with the physician. Please bring a mask or face covering with you to your appointment otherwise you may be turned away and required to do a televisit in lieu of an in-office visit. Due to the shortage of protective gear, we do not have adequate supplies to hand out masks to patients who do not have one when entering the office.
Patients who have an appointment will be the only ones allowed in the back office with the physician. All other visitors must wait in the main lobby downstairs or in their vehicle. For patients who require extra care, they may have one visitor accompany them for the purposes of providing care (i.e.: wheelchair bound, hearing/seeing difficulties, etc.), or medical power of attorney. We understand that this policy is restrictive, but we are trying to reduce foot traffic within the office at this time.
The office will be exercising disinfectant protocols. Rooms will be sprayed and wiped down after each appointment. Safe distancing and personal protective equipment will be worn by all staff.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the office through your portal or by phone.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Please keep your appointment even if pre-visit labs are not completed as the doctor must still have a visit with you for compliance purposes, in order to receive continued medication refills, and to triage when procedures and certain testing can be done. Click here to see details of how we will conduct televisits for certain patient types
Please be aware that Labcorp and Quest are still open and drawing blood as they normally would. Also be aware that Labcorp and Quest do NOT test for COVID-19 at their patient service centers and instead all testing for COVID-19 must be done through a PCP's office. For this reason, you SHOULD NOT EXPECT THERE TO BE ILL COVID-19 PATIENTS AT THE LAB- see the following link:
Labcorp: https://www.labcorp.com/coronavirus-disease-covid-19 (the first business hour each day serves people who are 65 or older, and those with serious underlying medical conditions).
Use the mobile check in feature when you arrive at the patient service center.
Once onsite, simply open up the confirmation page that was sent to you when you made your appointment and select the “I am here and ready for service” button. This will notify the technician that you’ve checked in and you will not need to use the LabCorp Express® check in tablet.
“Wait Where You’re Comfortable” program in our patient service centers nationwide. Follow the simple steps below to participate in this program:
Make an appointment online and provide your cell phone number. A confirmation page with your appointment details will be sent to you.
Once onsite, use your confirmation page to check in from your mobile device and wait in your vehicle or other nearby location.
When we’re ready to see you, you’ll receive a text message to meet the technician at the LabCorp check-in area. Please note that message and data rates may apply.
DRAW MY LABS https://drawmylabs.com/
This is a company that can come to your house to draw labcorp or Quest labs. You just need to give them the orders by email or fax. There may be a fee for the blood draw outside of the insurance charges.
If you are scheduled for a televisit, you should receive a text 24 hours and 30 minutes before your scheduled televisit appointment with a link that you can click on, to bring you into your doctor’s virtual waiting room. You can see details of how our televisits works at this link.
Patients scheduled for office visits for these procedures who rather consider a televisit at this time, take note:
1. Thyroid ultrasounds:
The doctor and patients will discuss safe follow-up and decisions about imaging via a scheduled televisit. The ultrasound will either be completed and rescheduled to a future visit or if urgent, ordered at another imaging facility. Doctors will have limited in-office appointments available.
2. Thyroid FNA biopsies:
These procedures will be rescheduled to a future specific office-visit date or another facility if available. You can discuss specifics for your case via a scheduled televisit with the doctor.
3. Thyroid nuclear treatments:
The already-scheduled in-office procedures will be done in the office as scheduled if nuclear material can be obtained. Otherwise, new procedures will be scheduled for at a hospital nuclear medicine department. Please schedule a televisit to discuss your concerns with the doctor.
The Houston Health Department has opened a COVID-19 call center for all Houston residents who may have questions or need information about the disease. The number to contact them is 832-393-4220 and they will be open Monday-Friday from 9am to 7pm and Saturdays from 9am to 3pm. Voicemails left outside of those hours will be answered in the order of receipt on the next business day. Physicians and emergency rooms equipped to diagnose COVID-19 have asked that symptomatic patients and patients with a history of international travel should call ahead to tell staff about recent travel and symptoms so arrangements can be made to receive you
We appreciate your understanding during this difficult time and we, at Houston Thyroid and Endocrine Specialists, hope to be able to continue to keep you safe and healthy for the foreseeable future.
There are a few important things to be aware of to make your upcoming televisit as productive as possible: If you have not already sent over any pertinent medical records, please upload your records using this link:http://www.houstonendocrine.com/submit-records or faxing to 713-795-0855.
Please use a smart phone or ipad/tablet if possible (rather than a desktop or laptop computer) and connect to wi-fi rather than use cellular service. PLEASE DO NOT DO THESE VISITS WHILE DRIVING.
If you are able, please click into our virtual waiting room 5 minutes before your scheduled appointment time and our staff may be able to test your televisit connection to make sure everything is working smoothly.
If you have access to a recent blood pressure heart rate or temperature, please let us know what it is at the time of your appointment.
For follow-up patients, please be sure to complete any labwork prior to the appointment if this was requested by your physician.
If you are concerned about insurance payments, please see the following notice from Governor Greg Abbott who has stated that all insurances including Medicare will cover televisits in the same way they cover office visits for immediate future. We may need to contact you prior to your upcoming appointment to get more insurance information and to take copay/deductible payments in the same way we would if you were seeing the doctor in the office.
For up to date Coronavirus information from the CDC, click here.