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Impact of missing Doctor Appointments due to fear of COVID-19

Sponsored by Baptist Memorial Hospital – North Mississippi

COVID-19 has impacted the lives of citizens around the United States and has changed how we live and interact. One area that COVID-19 has had a significant effect on is the health care system.

Patients who have chronic illnesses like heart disease, asthma, cancer and diabetes are in higher risk of contracting the virus due to compromised immune systems.

“According to a recent Harvard Research Study, primary care physician visits have dropped 50%, with some specialist visits down more than 50%,” said Dr. Paul Levy, Medical Director and Cardiothoracic surgeon at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford, Mississippi.

Dr Paul Levy MD
Chief Medical Officer-Baptist North Mississippi
Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeon

Clinical Impact of the Pandemic

“The COVID-19 pandemic has upset our health care delivery system in ways that we have not seen in this country during my 23-year career,” says Levy. “There is a shift in how we practice medicine, care for our patients, and how we go about our daily lives. It will continue to evolve as we learn more and as more people become sick with COVID-19, but our health care system will continue to adjust, and we are ready and are capable of meeting the challenges.”

Do not let fear of going to appointments or the hospital stop patients

Patients should not fear going to appointments or the hospital for treatment because of fear of contracting COVID-19. Baptist has safety measures in place to make sure you, when visiting are as safe as possible.

“Baptist is preventing the spread of COVID-19 to patients coming in for surgery and appointments by taking the proper precautions and following the CDC guidelines.

Once the patient is cleared with a negative COVID test, we can go ahead with the procedure. All employees are screened daily before entering the facility,” said Levy.

“Everyone, including the Baptist staff, is required to wear a mask while on campus.

Staff with direct patient care is also required to use the appropriate PPE as determined by the CDC. Patients who are positive or have symptoms are placed in a designated area for COVID-19 patients. Baptist has also limited the number of visitors that can come into the hospital,” said Levy.

“One thing people should not fear is visiting the hospital, especially in an emergency. Any patient who is having signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke should come to the ER. The consequences could be deadly, time is critical, and early treatment is of the utmost importance. Our hospital is safe, and the hospital has implemented additional protective measures during the pandemic. A good rule of thumb is if you would have come to the ER before COVID-19, then you should come now,” said Levy.

According to Dr. Paul Levy, if patients are still afraid of going to appointments, Telemedicine may be a good option for patients. “Telemedicine is a good option for follow-up visits but may not be a good option for initial visits. It is particularly a good option during the pandemic because it allows you to talk to your physicians from the comfort of your home. It keeps you out of the waiting rooms and helps decrease your risk of exposure. I would certainly check with your care provider to see if Telemedicine is an option,” said Levy

Consequences of stopping treatment

Patients with chronic illnesses need to keep their scheduled doctor’s appointments, and not let the fear of contracting COVID keep them from getting treatment. “We are now seeing the consequences of patients with chronic illness, not seeking medical care during the COVID pandemic.

Patients are running out of medicines and are not following their care plan, resulting in unfavorable outcomes. More patients are dying from strokes and heart attacks at home. These conditions are extremely time-sensitive, and outcomes are better with earlier treatment. Delayed treatment could be life-threatening.

“We are urging those with chronic illness to go to their physician visits. Do not let the fear of contracting COVID keep you from seeing your doctor because it can lead to worsening of chronic/acute disease state and decompensation of the patient. If you start feeling sick and think you may have COVID-19, get in touch with your healthcare provider within 24 hours,” said Levy.

For more information about appointments and how Baptist Memorial Hospital is helping patients visit https://www.baptistonline.org/baptist-is-safe.For more details about visitor guidelines, visit https://www.baptistonline.org/patients-and-visitors.