As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of people across the country, we are learning many Americans are avoiding routine medical care for fear of the virus.
Joining me to discuss this is Christopher Wells, from nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies. Welcome back, Christopher.
Chris. Thank you, Al. Good to be with you.
Al. From your research, are you finding any evidence that besides COVID care, Americans are opting out of medical care?
Chris. Yes, there is mounting evidence that this is happening. For one, data from the Mayo Clinic found that about 30% of people are delaying or avoiding medical care due to COVID-19 concerns. But also, an analysis from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program measured this in real time by collecting electronic health data. They found that emergency department visits were down about 42% during the early COVID-19 pandemic, compared to the same time last year.
Al. Yeah, many of us have felt the same hesitation, but hospitals are trying to address the public’s safety concerns so people can feel comfortable visiting the emergency room again.
Chris. Precisely. And the CDC is also trying to help prevent COVID transmission in hospitals by releasing infection control guidance, and encouraging virtual visits when possible. Despite the perceived COVID risks, some symptoms require emergency attention, including the signs of a heart attack or stroke, fainting, head or spinal injuries, as well as sudden or severe pain. These complications can be worse than COVID and should be attended to immediately.
Al. Okay, so its clear that emergency medicine has been impacted by COVID, but how about preventive care?
Chris. It’s even worse for preventive care. Research released in May showed that cervical, colon, and breast cancer screenings were down between 86% and 94% nationwide, compared to the same time period in previous years. Forgoing these screenings can put you at risk for serious complications later and an ounce of prevention could end up saving your life.
Al. So are there any tips for those of us looking to get medical care during the pandemic, but are worried about contracting COVID-19?
Chris. Yes, make sure and call your doctor’s office beforehand to see what precautions are being taken to protect patients from COVID and if a telemedicine visit is an option. If you need an office visit, be prepared for them to screen you for COVID prior to entering the building. Also, the doctor may want you to come alone or wait in your car until you are called. To alleviate some of the stress associated with the visit, you can bring your own hand sanitizer and of course practice the usual precautions such as wearing a mask and maintaining six feet from others.
Al: Great suggestions as usual, Chris. That’s all the time we have today. Thank you again for joining us. More information can be found at www.TransamericaCenterForHealthStudies.Org. This has been another episode of ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health and Wealth. This is Al Waller on WYPR, thanks for listening.