COVID-19 concerns have some people avoiding hospitals and doctors who now urge people to reschedule appointments they might have missed.
Many health systems and medical centers offer virtual video or telephone appointments. Facilities hosting in-person visits have taken extensive precautions to minimize the potential for COVID-19 exposure.
So, should you go in for an appointment?
“The risk-benefit analysis has changed,” said Dr. Karin Dodge, chief of adult and family medicine practice for Kaiser Permanente’s Baltimore region. “Is it riskier not to have it done versus to actually leave your house and potentially be exposed to COVID-19?”
Dodge believes priority must be given to chronic conditions.
“Check in with your doctor about your diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, COPD,” she said. “Sometimes that involves coming into the office for labs or other testing, and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Dodge also emphasized the importance of potentially lifesaving preventive care that she said should not be put off indefinitely.
“Now that we’re reopening and we’ve learned a lot about how to keep people safer in medical centers, now is the time if you’ve been deferring your mammogram or your colon cancer screening, or your follow up lab work or vaccinations against things that can kill you, like pneumonia,” Dodge said. “Now is the time to think about catching up on that.”
No one size fits all though. People of different age groups and health histories may have needs that influence decisions regarding virtual vs. in-person visits with doctors.
Preventive care for fairly young, healthy people may simply involve advice about good healthy habits; that doesn’t necessarily have to be done in person.
“When we get older or maybe when we have chronic health conditions, we’re more likely to need hands-on stuff like blood pressure measurement, labs, other kinds of testing and exams that require your presence in a medical building,” Dodge said.
“If you’ve been putting off care that your doctor has recommended, please reconsider. And, if you’re not sure if you really need something right now, please talk to your doctor.”