Throughout the pandemic, citizens have shown that they are a bit hesitant with seeking care from health practitioners.
The CDC reported in 2020 that 41% of people surveyed said that they avoided medical care in the early phases of the pandemic. And, while this is changing due to vaccination rollouts as well as many being willing to venture out during this point of the pandemic, some patients still find themselves unable to return to their routine visits. This is particularly true in countries and areas that may have less access to vaccines.
Dr. Reuben Obaro- a UK-based interventional radiologist- recognizes the importance of regular healthcare visits, as preventative care is an extremely effective way to manage potential health issues before they become a problem.
Here, he explores a few examples of medical appointments that should not be skipped by patients.
What Are the Dangers of Skipping Appointments?
One of the overarching fears that doctors have during the pandemic is that patients will fail to keep up with their healthcare visits and develop health complications as a result.
For example, there has been an emphasis in recent months on heart disease patients. A recent Cleveland Clinic report found that heart disease patients were very likely to put off appointments during the pandemic, at a rate of about 65%.
Worldwide, cardiac diagnostic testing decreased by two-thirds as well. In the UK, experts noted a sharp decrease in patients attending medical offices for heart problems during the first lockdowns.
While Dr. Reuben Obaro notes that professionals are encouraging those with underlying conditions to keep their appointments, he acknowledges that it is crucial for those who have no known health concerns to do so as well.
“Catching potential complications before they become larger problems is an important component of quality care.” Dr. Obaro states.
Healthcare providers feel that- given the statistics- people may be avoiding warning signs that would otherwise bring them to the doctor for a checkup.
On a global scale, patients in countries or pockets of communities without widespread access to vaccines may be putting off attending visits because of fear of transmitting the virus. In these instances, taking every precaution possible as suggested by medical professionals is a great practice.
What Appointments Should Patients Try to Keep During the Pandemic?
In the current landscape where 96% of doctors in the US are vaccinated in the US and as much as 93% of frontline workers are vaccinated in the UK,
healthcare institutions have done an excellent job protecting patients and providers recommend visiting as one would normally.
Still, there are a variety of appointments that patients should keep up with to avoid any complications. The below list addresses just a few of the most important appointments to uphold during the pandemic.
There are many reasons why Dr. Reuben Obaro considers primary-care visits one of the most crucial types of appointments to keep up with. Not only do healthcare professionals take vitals during these visits like heart rate and blood pressure, but they also give patients the opportunity to ask questions surrounding their health and care as well.
Primary-care visits are essential because they can be helpful for screening for health issues before they have the time to worsen. As an interventional radiologist, Dr. Obaro speaks to how issues can health conditions can lie just beneath the surface in even the healthiest seeming individuals.
Everyone needs physicals to evaluate their health, and more frequent trips may be required if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
Many areas reported declining emergency room visits during the pandemic. This has been a concern for healthcare professionals because emergency medical situations do not stop on account of COVID-19. Instead, doctors worry that people are experiencing potential complications but avoiding proper care.
It is crucial to not avoid care during a medical emergency
Doctors warn patients to keep a look out for telltale emergency medical symptoms such as trouble breathing, severe bleeding, prolonged loss of consciousness, or chest pain, whether they be related to COVID-19 or not. It is crucial to not avoid the emergency room if you have an injury or condition that may require a visit.
Routine screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and Pap tests play an instrumental role in detecting cancer early. For this reason, health professionals have recommended that patients do not hit the pause button on attending screenings- even if they are not at an age that presents a significantly higher risk of cancer.
Many forms of cancer, such as colon cancer, are made much more survivable when detected early through preventative screenings. These screenings give doctors the ability to catch cancer in earlier stages and devise treatment plans straightaway.
Health professionals are especially concerned that people who are seeing unusual symptoms that could be linked to cancer are not coming in to get the care they need. Anyone that is having these issues should see a doctor as soon as possible
We have known for some time that pregnancy can increase the likelihood of catching COVID-19. But in areas of the world where the vaccine is widely available for both doctors and expectant parents, it can be much easier to get to the doctor for prenatal screenings.
While there are some appointments that can be facilitated via telemedicine and curbside, there are ones that may involve an in-person visit a full, in-person visit. Luckily, health professionals may also be able to group vaccinations and screenings together to limit in-person visits as well.
Dentists recommend receiving a dental cleaning every six months because it helps clear away black and tartar that cannot be loosened through brushing alone. Unfortunately, however, many have skipped their regular dental appointments throughout the pandemic. In America, this can be further complicated by the fact that dental plans are considered separate from general healthcare in the eyes of insurance.
There are many reasons why skipping dental exams can be damaging to one’s overall health. Aside from the pain and bad breath that poor dental health can cause, gum disease and tooth decay can also lead to serious health problems as well.
For example, health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory infections can be caused by poor oral health. The process of keeping our teeth healthy begins with brushing and flossing, but many discount the importance of seeing the dentist for cleanings once every six months.
Getting Back on Track with Your Medical Appointments
It can be easy for certain appointments to slip our minds, doubly so during a global health crisis. As a proponent of preventative care for patients, however, Dr. Obaro continues to encourage people to make the healthiest choices possible during the pandemic- and this will likely include heading in for checkups.
To get on track, Dr. Reuben Obaro recommends starting with appointments such as primary-care visits as they can look for signs of some of the biggest dangers to our health. It also helps to consider your needs and how long it has been since you have seen a professional for them.
For example, if you know that you have skipped OB/GYN appointments during the pandemic, it may be a good time to look into getting scheduled. The same goes for other frequently overlooked assistance such as mental health.
For countries and areas that are seeing high numbers of COVID-19 cases and are showing low vaccination rates, Dr. Reuben Obaro recognizes that best practices may vary. Generally, patients will want to take precautions as suggested by their medical provider.
Patients in these areas may want to avoid more crowded practices, explore telehealth if available, and speak with medical providers for the most efficient ways to avoid transmission. Currently, offices are social distancing, continuing mask use, and many are changing how their waiting rooms function to reduce risks.
Avoiding medical appointments can give a variety of diseases and conditions time to cause unmitigated damage to our bodies. For this reason, it is important to look for warning signs and attend appointments regularly.