Preventive care and the pandemic
Procrastination is not typically considered a good thing. But as the world spent much of 2020 confronting the COVID-19 pandemic, putting certain things on hold became part of the new normal.
In an effort to reduce infection rates, public health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization urged people to limit their in-person interactions with people outside of their own households. As a result, many of the things people do on a regular basis, including seeing their physicians for wellness visits, were rescheduled.
It’s understandable that many people postponed preventive care and wellness visits during the pandemic, but it’s also potentially dangerous. For example, researchers with the Health Care Cost Institute found that childhood vaccinations declined by roughly 60 percent in mid-April 2020 compared with 2019. Other screenings and preventive exams, including mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies, also declined by significant percentages during the pandemic compared to the previous year.
The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion notes the power of preventive care is undeniable. In fact, the NCCDPHP points out that, while chronic diseases are among the most common and costly of all health problems, they’re also among the most preventable. Annual wellness visits and early detection efforts like routine screenings for at-risk populations can uncover problems before they escalate into something more serious. In addition, annual physicals, which are provided free of charge through many health insurance policies, provide great opportunities for doctors to advise patients on their overall health and how to improve it if exams and blood work turn up any red flags.
Visiting a doctor during the pandemic
As vital as preventive care can be, it’s understandable if people are hesitant to visit their doctors during the pandemic. But patients can take certain steps to calm their nerves about booking preventive care appointments during the pandemic.
• Schedule telemedicine appointments. The number of telemedicine appointments has skyrocketed during the pandemic. While the transition from predominantly in-person appointments to telemedicine might have been a reluctant and rocky one at the start of the pandemic, many doctors’ offices have since firmly established their telemedicine protocols. The Mayo Clinic advises patients who have not yet tried telemedicine to contact their doctors’ offices to arrange an appointment.
• Inquire about office procedures. Doctors try to keep patients healthy, not get them sick. Various medical organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, have provided thorough checklists to help physicians prepare their offices to welcome patients during the pandemic. Patients can ease their concerns by contacting their doctors’ offices and asking them about their pandemic-related protocols.
• Don’t hesitate to make requests. There’s no such thing as being too safe from COVID-19, so patients can work with their doctors to calm their fears even further. Ask to pay copays over the phone and request that the front desk call you when the doctor is ready so you don’t have to sit in the waiting room.
Preventive care is an important component of health care, even during a pandemic.