COVID-wary Patients May Avoid Care

By John Commins

More that two-thirds of patients in a new survey say they’d delay doctors’ appointments when COVID-19 rates spike in their area, and more than half (57%) say they’d be reluctant to go to the hospital even during an emergency.

The survey, released Tuesday by Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute, also found that 49% of respondents will not reschedule missed in-person medical appointments until COVID-19 concerns are reduced in their area. The same number (49%) fret that their health will suffer because of the appointments.

“I understand their hesitation. But there’s no question, across diagnoses, whether for chronic or acute conditions, the later in the disease process that we see people and can intervene, the worse their outcomes.” said Steven Hoff, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the OHHVI.

The respondents’ concerns do not align with the relatively low risk of contracting the coronavirus during in-person visits at healthcare venues, which are some of the safest public spaces. At the dame time, experts note that delaying medical care can be dangerous.

“Because of the extensive protocols in place, COVID-19 transmissions in hospitals are very rare,” said Joel Garcia, MD, an interventional cardiologist at the OHHVI. “There is more risk in not paying attention to symptoms or medical conditions than the benefit of staying home thinking you will not get exposed to COVID-19.”

Garcia said telehealth has become an invaluable tool during the pandemic, allowing doctors to communicate with patients, explain safety protocols in place at care venues, and encourage them to come in if needed.

Telehealth can also be used in follow up care and to limit in-person visits.

“We have been fortunate that we’ve been able to accelerate the development of telehealth services during the COVID era because of the need that was created,” Garcia said. “Being able to actually reach out to the patient in that venue allows us to educate patients better and get them in the door if we need to see them in person.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.