Sam knew he should have a follow-up visit with his doctor. He’d recently suffered a heart attack but was feeling good. He was one of many who put off care because he didn’t want to leave the house. He was scared of being exposed to COVID-19.
“We’ve had hundreds of patients cancel appointments over the last month,” said Cardiologist Jeff Carstens, MD, Vice President of Medical Operations, CHI Health Heart Institute. “Most of these were routine but some were follow-up visits after procedures and appointments that should be kept.”
Sam is not alone. One national medical journal found a 38 percent drop in patients being treated for life-threatening heart attacks called STEMIs, the blockage of a major artery.
“We believe people are still suffering from the same heart issues as before, but they’re choosing not to come in,” said Michael Schooff, MD, CHI Health Primary Care Medical Director.
Public health experts are also concerned about parents delaying children’s immunizations because it puts kids at risk for measles, whooping cough and other life-threatening illnesses. In fact, all appointments for children should be kept for vaccination reasons.
“The immunization schedule is designed to provide short term protection as well as long term immunity,” said CHI Health Pediatrician Kathryn Free, DO. “Delaying vaccines leaves children unprotected, at ages where they are most at risk, for serious illness, lifelong disability, or death due to vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Others postponing visits are diabetics who need routine care, people putting off cancer screenings, and patients with stroke symptoms, inflamed appendixes and more.
Some try to “tough it out” – which could make their condition worse, with unnecessary suffering, said Dr. Schooff. Getting care instead of allowing a condition to worsen can be a life-saving decision. “You don’t want to become a preventable death,” he said.
Dr. Schooff recommends that people not put off their care any longer. “It is okay to see your provider in their office. Your risk of getting sick from coming to a doctor’s visit is less than that of going to the grocery store or gas station.”
Not sure if you should be seen? Call your provider for sound advice.