Christina Tan, MD, MPH: Managing Coronavirus Fear


How can primary care and family physicians help put concerned patients at ease?

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has quickly become the most discussed—and likely, most feared—virus outbreak in years. Though many people rely on word from federal and public health agencies for the next updates of the outbreak, they could rely on their everyday physician for assurance—or at least, the right sources the information.

In an interview with HCPLive®, Christina Tan, MD, MPH, a state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, shared advisory on COVID-19 for concerned patients and physicians alike.

HCPLive: How can physicians help disseminate important, up-to-date information to patients during an outbreak?

Tan: It is really important for clinicians to keep as updated as possible on the evolution of an emerging infection such as COVID. And it's also important that clinicians trust and go to trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

For the most accurate information, we’ve got to go to those trusted sources. Keeping yourself abreast and attuned to the most updated information is probably the most important thing that clinicians can do to help dispel myths, and also to try to eliminate stigma that might be emerging.

We are concerned that we don't want to see stigma associated with certain populations. This is a virus that impacts everybody. This is not an issue that just impacts just one population subset alone.

HCPLive: What role can a primary care of family physician play in assisting concerned or potentially at-risk patients?

Tan: Making sure that you are up to date with the risk factors for novel coronavirus illness; keeping yourself up to date on the evolution of what's going on with novel coronavirus.

It will help inform your interactions with your patients, whether it's the worried-well—who might not have any sort of risk factors for novel coronavirus—to individuals who actually might have been at potential risk for exposure to coronavirus. That's going to be one of the most important aspects that clinicians need to keep in mind.

And also, we want to encourage clinicians that if you are concerned about a patient—if you are concerned that you might have a patient with a reportable condition or with an infection with an emerging infectious disease like COVID—that you make sure that you contact your public health departments to then report that information, and then take next steps.

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