Putting off appointments, medical procedures and routine children’s care may be putting your family at greater risk than you think.
Recent surveys show at least a third of Americans postponed care during the pandemic, including millions who have postponed necessary surgery.
Adults are putting themselves and their children at greater risk. Rigorous infection prevention measures in place at all Our Lady of the Lake facilities and clinics makes staying away unnecessarily risky, said Lauren Barfield, MD, medical director for adult primary care for Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group.
“We encourage patients especially with chronic diseases to not lapse in their follow-up care,” Dr. Barfield said.
Children are at risk as well if routine care is interrupted, especially when it comes to vaccinations and well-visits, said Shaun Kemmerly, MD, chief medical officer for Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. “Just as you ensure your child eats a nutritious meal, gets proper sleep, grows their mind, you also ensure that they are protected against infections.”
Although video visits have skyrocketed in popularity as a way to seek care remotely, in-person medical appointments are sometimes preferred, and they are essential periodically.
Adult primary care
Adults with chronic conditions should make resuming their routine care a priority. “The worsening of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to worse outcomes should a patient contract COVID-19, as well as known complications like heart attack and stroke,” Dr. Barfield said.
Common acute conditions left untreated can turn into problems with worse outcomes and complications if they are not addressed timely, she said.
Patients also need to seek care for common complaints like skin infections, ear infections, abdominal pain and depression or anxiety. “Common acute conditions left untreated can turn into problems with worse outcomes and complications if they are not addressed timely,” Dr. Barfield explained.
Preventative care is also important, including screening for disease that a patient may not be aware of.
Patients in need of surgery should go about scheduling their procedures now, said Brent Allain Jr, MD, a general and bariatric surgeon with Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group, especially if they’ve postponed a procedure because of the pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to loosen restrictions put in place when COVID-19 cases first began to surge.
“We’ve continued to provide safe and effective surgical care throughout the pandemic and there’s no reason for anyone not to receive care now,” Dr. Allain said.
Common conditions like gallbladder stones, hernias or tumors often worsen and result in more complications when necessary surgery is postponed. Appendicitis is another condition that can become more serious without prompt care. “We’ve had some really tough cases recently where patients waited to get care hoping their pain would go away,” Dr. Allain said.
When it comes to medical care for children, routine doctor appointments and well visits are important to make sure they’re hitting important milestones in growth and development.
“Pediatricians diagnose many health conditions at the time of a scheduled routine visit that were previously unknown; everything from heart murmurs, tumors, scoliosis, poor growth, high blood pressure to language delay, to name a few,” Dr. Kemmerly said.
Asthma, diabetes, vomiting with dehydration, febrile illnesses, high blood pressure, ADHD, seizures, anxiety and fractures are all very common concerns that need to be addressed with your pediatrician, she said. “We are trained to systematically perform an exam from head to toe with a trained eye to pick up any deviation from the norm.”
It’s incredibly important to keep up with children’s vaccinations, Dr. Kemmerly said. “Just as you ensure your child eats a nutritious meal, gets proper sleep, grows their mind, you also ensure that they are protected against infections.”
Safety from infection
Our Lady of the Lake has remained on the forefront of infection prevention throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Facilities are thoroughly and frequently sterilized, and patients receive care in settings that are carefully coordinated and monitored.
Our Lady of the Lake has spent tremendous effort making sure clinics are safe for patients, Dr. Barfield said. “Screenings are in place at entrances, staff and visitors are masked, and we have processes in place for our clinics and labs to expedite care without sitting in waiting rooms for long periods.”
Special safety measures are in place for all surgery patients, which begin long before they arrive for their procedure, Dr. Allain explained.
Patients are screened for symptoms more than a week in advance, and for certain high-risk respiratory and abdominal surgeries they are tested for COVID-19, he said. Precautions continue with additional screening the day of surgery, restrictions on visitors and follow-up screening to minimize the risk of infection-associated complications after surgery.
Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and its clinics and offices are following rigorous precautions as well. “Our clinics and hospitals have always been clean, but now they are spotless,” Dr. Kemmerly said.
Click here to learn more about patient safety at Our Lady of the Lake facilities.