Last week here on the AgingOptions blog we published an article about the benefits of telehealth (you can click here to read it). But now we want to take a look at the other side of the coin, so to speak. A growing number of recent news articles, including this one just published on the NextAvenue website, are asking the question, “Do Americans feel safe going back to the doctor’s office or the dentist’s chair?” It turns out many people aren’t sure they’re quite ready to return to medicine as usual.
Doctors and Safety: Coronavirus Has Delayed Medical Care for Millions
The NextAvenue story spotlights a 72-year-old retired attorney in Colorado “who has put off many medical appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as her annual physical and dental exam and an important follow-up for an eye exam.” The regular check on her eyes is especially critical since this woman has undergone a recent cornea transplant – yet she has even postponed this essential appointment. The reason is simple, she told NextAvenue: “I just haven’t felt comfortable going to doctors’ offices.”
This woman is definitely not alone. According to this late-April survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians, doctors are witnessing what the survey calls “a worrisome trend” – “Nearly a third of American adults (29 percent) say that they have delayed or avoided medical care because they are concerned about contracting COVID-19.” As the survey states, “The country has understandable angst about seeking medical care outside their homes during a pandemic.” Yet some medical procedures really shouldn’t be postponed.
Doctors and Safety: The Fear May Be Starting to Subside
There are signs, says NextAvenue, that, as the country emerges from lockdown, people may be starting to change their minds and are beginning to feel safer returning to regular doctor and dentist appointments. One Palm Beach, Florida, dentist said they re-opened for non-emergency patients on May 4th and since then have had only two cancellations. “We just had the busiest two weeks we’ve had in twenty-eight years,” this dentist told NextAvenue. “I think the more the state or city opens, the more confidence is built in the general public.”
Most medical professionals agree that the impact of the coronavirus on health care has been unprecedented. Dr. Madeline Sutton, an Atlanta physician who spent over two decades at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told NextAvenue that the rapid shift of non-emergency cases to telemedicine was partly driven by a desire to free up medical staff for urgent cases. “Non-urgent care was moved to telemedicine,” Sutton says, a shift which “may have inadvertently made patients more fearful of their doctors’ offices.”
Doctors and Safety: “Telemedicine is Here to Stay”
The good news might be that patients will have a “best of both worlds” choice in the future. Even as many doctors are starting to re-open for patients that need to be seen in person, many also continue to offer the option of telemedicine. “Sutton says patients have found they like staying home to see the doctor,” NextAvenue reports, “and especially for those in rural areas or without access to transportation, it makes it more convenient.”
“Telemedicine is here to stay,” says Dr. Sutton. “It’s become routine in our system to see patients in the office, and telemedicine has been a steep learning curve, but it was thrust upon us so we could make sure our patients are OK.” As an example, the Colorado attorney cited earlier in the article “just completed her annual physical via telemedicine, [and] says she will keep doing it when and if it is offered.” During the call, her doctor asked questions and ordered necessary lab work, and there will be a follow-up telemedicine appointment to discuss the results. (However, this woman will still have to go in for that eye exam, says NextAvenue. Some things require seeing the doc in person.)
Doctors and Safety: What About Your Local Dentist?
Like doctor’s offices, dental offices have made some necessary changes. Most are asking patients when they check in about possible coronavirus symptoms, and are taking every patient’s temperature and limiting the number of people who can be in the waiting room. But you can’t practice dentistry via telemedicine, and patients in the dental chair can’t wear masks. The reality of the coronavirus has forced dental practices to take new precautions.
One dentist told NextAvenue that he has installed specially-designed extractors that suck up any saliva or other liquid that sprays during a procedure. “It’s not mandatory,” he said, “and they’re expensive, but I believe it’s a reasonable piece of equipment to have, especially since they currently believe the virus is spread through bodily fluids.” But as for masks, this dentist says patients shouldn’t worry. All dental staff are wearing masks and many also wear face shields. “The mask protects the other person, not you, so as long as the staff is wearing a mask, you’re protected as you can be,” this doctor states.
The article offers this basic advice to those still uneasy about an office visit: call and ask. “If you feel uncomfortable seeing your doctor or dentist, [call] the office to learn exactly the precautions being taken there,” says NextAvenue. That should put your mind at ease.
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)