ST. LOUIS – The COVID-19 pandemic has forced nearly one-third of US adults to postpone routine care. What could this mean in terms of health outcomes?
Dr. Megan Renner, a family medicine physician with SSM Health Medical Group in St. Charles County, says physician offices were closing early into the crisis, but now she encourages patients to schedule their routine care, like annual visits to the OB/GYN, dermatologist, mammograms, wellness check-ups, colonoscopies, physicals, and other preventative screening appointments.
“Essential care includes everything from chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, high cholesterol, follow-ups of anxiety and depression,” Renner said. “And also preventative care such as well-woman exams, annual pap smears, Medicare wellness visits, and the like.”
Doctors are concerned that patients will push off appointments for too long.
“…if (patients) push off these appointments for too long, that their chronic conditions won’t be well controlled, they will have higher blood pressure ratings, higher blood sugars,” Renner said. “They may miss a diagnosis that could potential save their life.”
SSM Health offices have put many precautions in place to ensure visits are safe including:
- Patients will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before you walk in
- Waiting rooms have social distancing – chairs are separated within lobbies and waiting areas
- Everyone is wearing masks
- Appointment times are spread out to make sure exams are completed and there are fewer people in the office
Dr. Renner said it has been almost seven months since the pandemic began, and without prioritizing your appointments, a year can quickly pass. SSM Health is also encouraging telehealth visits for those who are not comfortable coming into a building. She encourages patients who have interrupted healthcare visits to bring a list of questions to discuss with their doctors, and also a list of medications to review dosage, any potential side effects, or prescription needs.
Physical examinations also provide an opportunity to review the individual’s complete health history and developmental milestones and ensure he or she is up-to-date with current immunization recommendations for their age.
To find a location for setting a primary care doctor with SSM Health, click here.