Yes, It’s Safe—and Important—to Receive Routine Medical Care
Our primary care doctors in Delray Beach hoped that by now the coronavirus pandemic would be largely behind us.
The summer wave seems to be receding, but we’re concerned that COVID-19 is keeping people from seeking care for non-coronavirus conditions.
“There are individuals who, with rising rates of COVID-19 infection, have been hesitant about coming to the doctor’s office,” Michael Knight told The Washington Post.
Knight is a primary care physician and the associate chief quality and population health officer with the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates.
“And that has allowed for missed opportunities to identify a disease early on or to achieve optimal control over chronic diseases.”
Putting off needed routine medical care
As the still-new pandemic raged last year, doctors around the world reported a worrisome decline in visits to emergency rooms and doctors’ offices.
Dr. Brijeshwar Maini told WPTV at the time that he had seen a 40-60% drop in patients coming into the ER. Dr. Maini is an interventional cardiologist at Tenet Healthcare System’s Delray Medical Center.
“I think it’s the fear factor [combined] with the fact that maybe this [symptom] will go away. ‘Maybe I’m not having a heart attack.’ And the denial part kicks in. It’s human nature to do that,” he told the station.
Dr. Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health in the Seattle area, told CNBC that his brother-in-law “was petrified” of going to a necessary doctor’s appointment out of fear of contracting the disease.
Possible deadly consequences
In the intervening months, the advent of the vaccines and more widespread use of masks and other measures have helped bring the nationwide death toll lower than it would have been otherwise, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a reassuring drop in new cases in the last three weeks.
But many doctors are concerned that people are still skipping necessary care.
“The big question is, are we going to see a lot more people that have bad outcomes from heart disease, from stroke, from cancer because they’ve put off what they should have had done but were too afraid to come to the hospital,” Hochman told CNBC.
Putting off regular testing and treatment can have serious, even deadly consequences.
For example, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends annual mammograms for women starting at age 45. For women over 55, they recommend biennial (every two years) mammograms.
That’s because, as the National Breast Cancer Foundation notes, the five-year survival rate for women whose breast cancer is detected in the earliest stages is 100%.
Similarly, the ACS says that the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer that is detected in its earliest stages is 91%.
When caught and treated early, there is a better chance of recovery from nearly every medical condition. Conversely, nearly every medical condition can potentially lead to serious complications when left untreated.
But many in the medical community are worried that people are still putting off such life-saving screenings, as well as routine checkups and immunizations.
Ensuring everyone’s safety
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, medical facilities have learned a great deal about prevention. This includes social distancing and sanitizing to improved ventilation as well as the benefits of wearing masks.
In addition, approximately 56% of the population is now fully vaccinated. Even with more contagious variants, your risk of becoming infected in a medical setting is far lower than it was a year-and-a-half ago.
Steps to take
There are also steps you can take to decrease your risk when seeking preventive, urgent, or emergency care.
- Be sure you’re fully vaccinated. If you’re still hesitant about receiving one of the coronavirus vaccines, please let us know.
- Check with us to see whether your symptoms can be safely and adequately treated at home. We may also help develop alternatives for certain inoculations and tests if you wish. This could include performing blood pressure screenings at home.
- Wear a well-fitting mask in every indoor setting. Most hospitals and medical facilities—including ours—will require this regardless.
- Be sure to bring hand sanitizer. Try to keep your distance from other patients and visitors as much as possible.
- Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you’re experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, sudden changes in vision or hearing, or signs of a stroke: sudden weakness or numbness in one side of your body, have fallen and has a head injury, or are experiencing bleeding that won’t stop within a few minutes.
The important thing is to keep up with routine medical care, from health screenings to recommended vaccines.
You should feel comfortable coming to our offices, where we have rigorous protocols in place to protect you. In addition, our doctors and staff have the full vaccination against COVID-19.
We also offer remote consultations through Telehealth which you can access on your computer, tablet, or phone. Contact us at 561-496-7200 to schedule an appointment.
So please don’t let fear of the coronavirus keep you from receiving the routine medical care you need.