According to a survey recently conducted by the US Census, 40% of Americans and 38.9% of Hoosiers are delaying medical care. This is bad news for primary care, which focuses on helping manage chronic diseases and prevent illnesses through vaccinations, screenings and other preventative care measures.
If left untreated, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Untreated asthma and COPD can lead to a respiratory crisis. When patients also avoid the emergency room, the consequences can be fatal.
While there have always been patients who delay healthcare for a variety of reasons, particularly cost, the recent situation is much worse. In some areas, patients have been unable to get certain types of care due to the cancellation of services, such as elective surgeries. Now that most services have resumed, however, delayed care is largely the result of fears of exposure to Covid-19.
Ironically, healthcare professionals have the greatest understanding of the risks associated with Covid-19, and have taken the strongest measures to prevent it. Routine cleanliness and safety measures in healthcare have been transformed amid the Covid-19 situation. At RMH, for example, masking has been required and enforced since very early in the Covid-19 pandemic. The use of UVC light for disinfection, the expansion of the Environmental Services staff and the implementation of remote meetings have all contributed to the protection of patients and staff.
Patients who continue to avoid routine healthcare and the emergency room may feel safer, but the reality is that they may be at much higher risk.