HOUSTON, Texas — As hospitals and clinics saw an influx of COVID-19 patients and residents were warned to protect themselves from the spread of the virus, many patients postponed their routine checkups and screenings.
dr. Amelia Averyt, associate medical director of clinical practice at Legacy Community Health, said patients have been delaying diabetes care, blood pressure monitoring, regular cancer screenings, annual exams and pediatric care.
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“As the pandemic blossomed, that fear hit,” she said. “People … at higher risk of complications have simply decided to stay at home.”
A Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health survey found that at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, 20% of US residents could not or chose to delay medical care for a serious problem, and 15% could not. was able to perform elective procedures. More than half of both groups reported negative health consequences as a result.
Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital had a telemedicine platform before the pandemic, and Chief Operating Officer Carl Little said it was a quick linchpin that helped fill some of the gaps.
“I think everyone in healthcare believes that telemedicine has its place and will continue to exist just because of its convenience and affordability,” Little said. “Now, of course, the challenge is that you can’t treat a lot of things through telemedicine.”
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Because cancer screening, blood work and other observations must be done in person, Averyt said practitioners have missed opportunities to diagnose childhood developmental problems and get cancer in the early stages because of this trend of delaying doctor visits.
With coronavirus vaccines being distributed, Houston Methodist Willowbrook officials said they are seeing a wave of non-coronavirus patients returning to in-person visits. Little said he continues to emphasize the importance of scheduling routine preventive procedures.
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“We’ve heard specific cases just from our doctors…where people had delayed treatment, and it certainly makes it more complex and challenging to treat those patients, whether they’re dealing with more advanced cancer, heart disease or neurological problems,” said Little.
The video above comes from a story of doctors reporting delays in cancer screening during COVID.
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