Let’s face it. We are living in a brand-new reality where COVID-19 has been burned into our collective psyche. Even before the pandemic was thrust upon us, accessing healthcare presented challenges. Now – as patients and caretakers – we have multiple layers of doubt we must work through before even crossing into the doctor’s office. Is my condition/injury bad enough to warrant placing myself in further jeopardy by going to the doctor or diagnostician and exposing myself to the virus? Should I delay seeking treatment until the daily statistics are better? Can I risk not seeking out medical diagnosis or will I make it worse?
Patients and care takers are being asked to make decisions about self-care with little or no answers which validate the best course of action.
In many instances, that is ok. While not ideal, we can delay getting things like our annual physical if there is no pressing concern. If you have a serious concern, however, delaying medical care and assessment can be detrimental. Our firm has worked with many clients who suffered because of a delayed diagnosis. In today’s healthcare climate, the risk of a delayed diagnosis is even greater. The health care industry’s main focus on COVID-19 and the sheer volume of patients has and will continue to sideline timely treatment of non-COVID-19 patients, especially in emergency situations.
The good news is that you do have care options and there are ways to navigate the current medical landscape.
Don’t think of your undiagnosed condition as “routine.” If you are suffering from symptoms that may be signs of a serious condition, getting diagnosed is not an option or something you should put off. No one knows your body better than you do. Don’t argue with yourself; trust your gut. Your health is very important, and in this case, getting medical attention should outweigh any fears of contracting a virus.
Don’t cancel existing appointments. If you already have scheduled appointments related to your condition and diagnosis, regard them as necessary. If you do get a call to reschedule, advise of your symptoms and concerns and gently insist you be seen or ask what can be done to accommodate you.
Consider telehealth options. Many physician’s offices are still closed and physical appointments are in short supply. Fortunately, coverage of telemedicine under Medicare and many insurance plans has been expanded. Being able to meet with your physician via your computer or smart device is essentially treated the same as if you met in person – your doctor can order tests, prescribe medication, or make needed referrals. Be sure you have any recent symptoms or concerns clearly documented, so you can communicate most effectively.
Keep up with your existing treatment. This is not the time to let your medication or any treatment protocols lapse. If you do take medication, ask your doctor about a 90-day refill to keep you supplied during this time.
Go to the emergency room if you need to. If you are experiencing serious symptoms such as chest pains, shortness of breath, or cognitive or speech impairment, don’t hesitate. Just bear in mind that, even with effective triage, large numbers of patients may impact how long it will take to be seen. If time is not critical and you have a choice of emergency rooms, calling ahead to get an idea of wait times may help speed your access to medical care while reducing exposure to others.
Whether you were in the process of getting evaluated and diagnosed or have recently started experiencing symptoms, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to make your health a priority. The sooner your condition is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin and the higher likelihood of a successful recovery.