As the COVID-19 epidemic begins to slow and the curve continues to flatten, we’re slowly seeing a return to normal life. You may be wondering if it’s better to reschedule your appointments or hold off until life settles down a bit more. While it may seem daunting to return to a healthcare setting so soon, it’s essential that you don’t delay essential preventative care.
Recent reports show that routine medical tests that detect disease and monitor chronic conditions have plummeted nationally since March. Outpatient office visits and the immunizations, panels and screenings that typically occur there are down over 60%. Chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension are going largely unchecked. Even more seriously, patients are putting off treatment for issues that require immediate emergency care – resulting in a 41% increase in non-COVID mortality rates.
It may seem relatively harmless to skip your annual exams, but preventative care can help you catch small issues early through routine screenings. Catching these small issues early can also help to reduce your overall cost of healthcare as ignoring symptoms can lead to ER visits, hospitalization or extensive specialty care.
Preventative care appointments and procedures may include, but are not limited to, colonoscopies, Pap smears, prostate exams, mammograms and immunization vaccines.
If you have a young child, it is especially important that you stay in touch with your pediatrician in order to catch up on any missed vaccinations. Childhood vaccinations are essential to help your child build immunity and prevent disease from occurring. The U.S. Center of Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on March 24 bout the critical role of vaccinations. From that date, they marked a drop of 100,000 vaccination orders than the previous year. That number has leaped to about 400,000 fewer since the third week of April.
If you have one or more chronic conditions, it’s especially important that you carefully manage your health . Allowing chronic conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, to go unmonitored can result in heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and even a higher risk for complications if you are diagnosed COVID-19. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic condition it is essential that you maintain contact with your healthcare provider and manage any and all prescription medication needs.
If you are unable make it into your doctor’s office, Ochsner’s Digital Medicine Program helps patients manage their chronic conditions from home while staying connected to a dedicated care team. These include a Hypertension Digital Medicine Program and a Diabetes Digital Medicine Program.
Additionally, you can have a virtual visit with a primary or specialty care provider securely via your smartphone or tablet through the MyChart app. Virtual visits with the MyChart app give you the experience of your traditional office visit without ever leaving home or work. To learn more about if a virtual visit is right for you, contact your provider.
As always, in case of a life-threatening emergency you must seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible. It’s important that you don’t attempt to “ride out” severe illness or pain at home, as delaying care can put you at increased risk and could potentially adversely effect outcomes.
There are many reasons you might want to avoid delaying care, particularly when addressing essential and time sensitive healthcare conditions such as cancer , cardiac and neurologic care. Ultimately, putting off attention to your health is not an effective healthcare strategy.
There are several things Ochsner is currently providing to ensure a clean, safe environment for patients, no matter what their needs. In addition to our existing ongoing safety procedures, we’ve added new measures to help keep you well, here are some things you can expect at your next doctor’s visit.
Social distancing is still one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you come in for an appointment, there are ways to minimize contact with those around you. Patients will maintain at least a 6-foot distance between each other when checking in and in the waiting room. To practice social distancing, chairs and tables will be spaced out, acrylic shields will be placed over registration desks and there will be directions labeled via signs and on the floors to signify proper distances. Our staff will also practice social distancing unless it is necessary to come in closer contact for patient care.
Masks and Temperature Checks on Arrival
When you enter a facility, you will participate in a mandatory temperature check as well as be given a mask if you did not bring yours, to wear over your nose and mouth. Wearing the mask will help ensure your safety as well as others’ by limiting exposure of respiratory droplets, the means by which the virus spreads.
Additional Hand Sanitizer Available
As you have probably noticed from previous visits, automatic hand sanitizer stations are placed around all our facilities. To better accommodate the influx in hand sanitizer use by our patients and staff, we have increased the availability of hand sanitizer for our patients. We encourage you to sanitize before your visit, after meeting with your provider, after touching yourself or others, after using the restroom, before and after eating or drinking or after touching objects such as elevator buttons, pens or handrails.
Regularly Cleaning All Public Areas
While our staff is always diligent about cleaning our facilities, we have increased the frequency each day that our staff cleans all public areas. Maintaining a clean environment is highly important to the health and well-being of our patients and staff.
With this mind, along with guidance from local and state officials, we are confident in our ability to safely provide your care. To schedule your next appointment, visit MyOchsner.