The pandemic has put many areas of our lives on hold, including delaying regular visits to the doctor. Routine maintenance is important, say experts, who worry that certain diseases such as cancer, may escalate without early detection.
According to CNN, at least six in 10 OB-GYNS reported being very or somewhat worried about delays in contraceptive care, prenatal care, follow up care for abnormal Pap smears, STI treatment, and obtaining an abortion. While telehealth visits by phone or video can take care of some medical issues, it’s not always the best option.
Dr. Maria Sophocles, a New Jersey-based a specialist in menopause and sexual dysfunction, told CNN that remote patient visits in her field pose a challenge.
“Telemedicine has been a wonderful way to safely and conveniently conduct consultations but as a gynecologist there are certain conditions which require an exam, she said. Conditions such as breast masses or abnormal bleeding must be dealt with in person, she said.
But going to a doctor in person can be risky, and many people are reluctant to make necessary appointments. Here are some considerations to help you decide whether to see your healthcare practitioner.
- Are you at risk for COVID-19? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that people who are at risk for severe COVID-19 complications, such as those over the age of 65, people with diabetes or other underlying conditions, should check with their doctor before making an appointment. Also, if the number of cases is high in your area, ask if you can arrange to see the doctor when there as few people in the office as possible.
- Can you get a virtual appointment? Many healthcare practitioners and medical clinics now offer virtual appointments which is fine for routine appointments, medication management, and follow-up visits, according to SELF. Dr. Gregory Poland, a vaccine expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says physicians can accurately diagnose many conditions such as shingles during a video call. It is important to take notes before your call and perhaps a photo of the condition or rash you are concerned about. But as noted above, in certain situations you are better off visiting the doctor in person.
- Is this an emergency? Dr. Poland said that in the early days of the pandemic, there were fewer visits to the ER for strokes and heart attacks which could be deadly. If you experience any cardiac or neurological symptoms, ask your doctor if you should head to an urgent care clinic or directly to the emergency room.
- Are you maintaining preventative care? According to SELF, it is important to stay on top of cancer screenings, including colonoscopies and mammograms. Make sure all vaccinations, including the flu vaccine are up to date. Dr. Scott Froum, a periodontist from New York City, says that although a recent survey found that 30% of people are afraid to visit the dentist during the pandemic, delaying your routine trip to the dentist can cause more harm than good. In a study he and his colleagues conducted of nearly 3,000 high-risk, older patients who visited the dentist between March and September, not one case of COVID-19 was detected thanks to scrupulous hygiene and superior personal protection equipment.
Dr. Poland says when you do visit the doctor, wait outside in your car until the physician is ready to see you. You can complete any necessary paperwork there. That way you won’t spend time in the waiting room.
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