With the pandemic continuing to impact life in Washington state, it’s no surprise that many people are being extra cautious about tackling nonessential tasks and errands outside the home. But in my work running Care Medical I’ve seen a concerning trend: Many are categorizing their own healthcare as nonessential, and that poses its own risks.
More than half of the public has skipped or postponed medical care during the pandemic, according to a May 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Stat News reported cancer screenings were down as much as 94 percent, and the World Health Organization revealed that more than 117 million children in 37 countries could miss or delay their measles vaccines.
Turning to a healthcare clinician, whether in times of stress or critical need or for routine checkups, can help prevent chronic conditions down the road and ultimately improve your quality of life.
I understand why people might avoid going to a hospital or doctor's office for what might seem like a minor problem—but as a clinician, these statistics worry me. It’s critical that we don’t collectively avoid care altogether. Turning to a healthcare clinician, whether in times of stress or critical need or for routine checkups, can help prevent chronic conditions down the road and ultimately improve your quality of life.
Fortunately, you have other options available to get peace of mind.
- First, determine if your need can be met—or at least initially addressed—through virtual care. Virtual care has been talked about and delivered on for years, and COVID-19 has forced it to become a norm. For instance, through Care, you can immediately chat online with one of our nurses who can work with you to understand what you’re experiencing and determine the best course of action. There’s no “waiting out the pain,” Googling for answers, or trying to get in touch with your primary care clinician, which can be challenging. You can get meaningful answers right when you need them.
- Check for emerging options and adapted healthcare delivery models. The pandemic has forced us all to be more innovative and adaptable. For us, that means offering home visits for vaccinations for kids over two. Routine care is also important, even during a pandemic. It’s critical that kids vaccine schedules aren’t disrupted, which could put children at risk for other preventable diseases. Clinicians often perform developmental checks during vaccine checkups, too. If these are missed, families run the risk of missing early indicators of health issues that could otherwise be prevented.
- If those options don’t work and you do need to head to the doctor’s office, consider calling ahead to find out about your facility’s safety procedures. If they don’t have clearly stated guidelines, consider that a red flag. To mitigate risk, wear your mask once there, and try to avoid a crowded waiting room if you can—waiting outside is best. Map your journey step by step in advance to account for situations you might encounter and prepare accordingly.
- If you have a serious medical condition—congestive heart failure or uncontrolled diabetes, for example—I recommend that you continue your in-person care and follow-ups. And if you have urgent concerns, such as severe bleeding or a broken bone, it’s critical that you seek in-person care immediately.
Caring for your health now can help you stay healthier in the long run. And it’s smart to proceed with caution.
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