Should you skip routine doctor visits during the Covid-19 pandemic?

On March 13, 2020, a national emergency was declared in the U.S., and we all hunkered down in the safety of our homes to help slow the spread of Covid-19. Now five months into the pandemic, social distancing has led to another phenomenon – medical distancing.

So, should you be avoiding routine trips to the doctor? The short answer is no – in fact, they may be more important now than ever.

Vaccines and preventative care for children

The Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Tracking System both indicate a significant decrease in childhood vaccinations since March. Unvaccinated children are vulnerable to serious but preventable illnesses that are still very much present in society, including measles and pertussis (whooping cough). Preventative care is vital for children, and parents should continue with their regular schedule of care.2 And, of course, be sure to follow Covid-19 protocols such as washing hands in soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, practicing social distancing, and wearing surgical or cloth masks when visiting your child’s doctor’s office to make the trip as safe as possible. (Note: the CDC recommends that children older than two years of age wear a mask; if you have questions about whether your child should wear a mask, consult your physician).

Don’t avoid treatment out of fear

Adults have also been avoiding the doctor in recent months, with reports of patient levels dropping by as much as 20-30%.3 Ignoring troubling symptoms such as chest pain/pressure, breathing difficulties, vision changes, fever, pain, etc. is dangerous. If you are experiencing a medical issue or worrisome change in health, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms; they may advise you to make an appointment or direct you to an urgent care facility or nearest ER. For a medical emergency, do not hesitate to call 911.Whether it is routine care from your doctor or picking up prescriptions and over the counter medications from your pharmacy, you should never avoid treatment out of fear of contracting the coronavirus.It is particularly important to continue to monitor and treat chronic health conditions. If you are living with a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD, asthma, etc., this has undoubtedly been a particularly scary time for you. If you have been staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact to limit your risk of exposure, you have been doing exactly the right thing. But it is essential that you continue to monitor and treat your chronic condition. Keep in touch with your physician, let them know about any concerns and changes, and stick to their prescribed schedule of treatments or tests.

The rise of “Telehealth”

Your doctors and medical facilities have been working hard to make getting care safer, from in-office protocols for patients and staff, to adopting new technology to consult with and treat patients virtually. Telehealth – meeting with your doctor by telephone or online – not only reduces your risk of exposure, it may even help to reduce overall healthcare costs long-term. Even Medicare recipients can now take advantage of Telehealth; Congress temporarily lifted Medicare restrictions on Telehealth services and also eased limitations on the types of technologies providers can use to communicate with patients, such as Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, etc. While Telehealth will never fully replace in-person care, it has provided physicians with a convenient way to continue to treat their patients and monitor chronic health concerns while allowing patients the peace of mind of staying home.4,5

We’re here to help

We know that these are worrying times, and we are taking every precaution possible with protocols and new services in place to protect your health and safety. We are always here – for you, your family, and your health.

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

Sources

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Routine Pediatric Vaccine Ordering and Administration — United States, 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e2.htm Last accessed: July 15, 2020

2.Cleveland Clinic: Why Your Kids Should Still Get Vaccinated During the Coronavirus Pandemic https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-its-important-to-maintain-your-kids-vaccinations-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/ Last accessed: July 15, 2020

3.John Hopkins Medical: Don’t Avoid Your Doctor During the Coronavirus Pandemic https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/dont-avoid-your-doctor-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic Last accessed: July 15, 2020

4.PBS: Ready to See Your Doctor but Scared to Go? Here are Some Pandemic Guidelines https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/ready-to-see-your-doctor-but-scared-to-go-here-are-some-pandemic-guidelines Last accessed: July 15, 2020

5.To The Point: The Benefits of Telehealth During a Pandemic — and Beyond https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2020/benefits-telehealth-during-pandemic-and-beyond Last accessed: July 15, 2020

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