Dover Post, Del.
Have you been putting off that trip to the doctor’s office? Time to rethink that decision.
Four in 10 adults in the United States, as of June 30, were skipping out on routine doctor’s appointments or emergency medical care due to worries about the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published last fall.
While the CDC points to fears about contracting COVID-19 from hospitals, the federal agency emphasizes that health care facilities across the country have many safety measures in place to protect patients and staff, and avoiding care may be an even greater risk to people’s health.
Now, as more people are becoming familiar with telemedicine options and precautions like mask-wearing and temperature-taking, doctors and medical professionals continue to urge people to not delay their care — whether that’s a routine exam, screening or an emergency visit.
Here are five things health care professionals, in our area and nationally, want you to know.
Health care facilities are working to protect you
From spacing out seating in waiting rooms to installing plexiglass dividers to screening all patients for COVID-19 symptoms before coming for a visit, hospitals and doctor’s offices have introduced several changes to keep patients and staff safe.
At the beginning of the pandemic, nurses like Kathy Cook at Beebe Healthcare spent time reassuring patients that it was safe to visit, and the message remains the same:
“We are trying to care for you,” Cook said. “We are going to do everything we can to keep you safe.”
Other common precautions include mask requirements, frequent COVID-19 testing, constant cleaning of surfaces, limited visitors and separating patients who test positive for COVID-19 from those who are not suspected of having the virus.
Telemedicine might be an option
Many providers have started offering telemedicine, or virtual visits using video or phone calls, as an alternative to coming on-site.
Some in Delaware like Beebe Healthcare and Bayhealth started offering telemedicine in primary care offices, and they encourage patients to contact the practices to learn more.
Walk-in services are still an option at most health care providers, and some allow patients to sign up for appointments online to avoid crowds at the center or doctor’s office.
Anyone using Beebe’s Walk-In Centers in Georgetown, Millville, Millsboro and Rehoboth can use the new online scheduling tool for telemedicine or in-person visits.
Annual visits can prevent bigger concerns
Even with annual checkups, delaying care can mean a delayed diagnosis.
These visits help medical teams monitor any changes in your health and may prompt them to order important diagnostic tests like imaging and lab work, said Dr. John Fink, vice president of quality and medical affairs at Bayhealth.
“Delaying these visits or putting off routine screenings such as mammograms or colonoscopies could have a serious impact on anyone who puts off these lifesaving tests,” Fink said in a statement.
Emergency care is still important
If anyone is experiencing serious problems, especially related to shortness of breath, chest pain or other heart-related issues, medical professionals say to call 911 or a health provider immediately.
The American Heart Association reported in July that illnesses like heart disease, stroke and diabetes may have caused more deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic because people waited too long to receive care.
“Community members delaying care is something we’ve been concerned about throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. David A. Tam, president and CEO of Beebe Healthcare, said in a statement. “Anecdotally, we have seen patients delaying care until the last second, which can turn something minor into something more serious. Congestive heart failure, stroke, heart attacks, and many other ailments or traumas do not stop because of the ongoing pandemic.”
Health care providers continue to remind people to seek care immediately if they have serious concerns.
Have questions? Call your provider
Whether you want to learn more about the available telemedicine options or what your provider is doing to make your visit safe, hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care facilities are encouraging people to call with questions.
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