By Andrew Ta, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Broward Health
Over the past year, many individuals and families have delayed nonemergent medical care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While hospitals throughout the country suspended some services temporarily at the height of the outbreak, all – including ours at Broward Health – have been operating normally for many months with safeguards implemented to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our patients and visitors. However, it’s becoming more and more clear that Floridians are continuing to postpone regular medical care, and as a physician, I’m concerned.
A recent study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and National Public Radio (NPR) found that among the general U.S. population who reported delaying medical care (20%) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half experienced negative health consequences as a result.
If you’ve been postponing medical care – whether routine or for a disease you’ve been diagnosed with – now is the time to reach out to your medical provider and schedule an appointment and get up to date on any screenings, vaccinations, chronic disease management or other services you have gone without this last year. The impacts of continuing to put off the care you need can be substantial, and in some cases even devastating or catastrophic. It is not worth the risk. Your health cannot wait any longer.
As a physician, it is natural for me to advocate for regular, preventative care for all patients, but I also understand the concerns about visiting a medical facility during a pandemic. Early in the pandemic, they were warranted. Today, however, they are no longer valid. Your healthcare providers are ready to treat you – safely.
Our teams at Broward Health have been working to help ensure all our facilities and medical offices continue to be sanitary and prepared for patient visits. Providing high-quality care that’s safe for all our patients has always been our most important priority as we work every day to fulfill our mission to the community we serve.
This alarming trend is a threat to the overall health and wellness of our community and in the entire state of Florida, which is home to a large population of seniors. In fact, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, nearly a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries forewent any medical care for up to six months last year. In the particular case of aging adults, the importance of routine medical care cannot be overstated. Providers can only deliver world-class healthcare services to patients when able to see their patients.
I realize during this time, many people have turned to the convenience of virtual care, which has provided a great interim solution to address healthcare needs. However, it cannot take the place of seeing a physician face to face. Physical visits in the office are necessary to provide the highest quality of care in many specialties, especially when treating the most critical and chronic conditions. I also cannot overstress the need for an annual physical with your primary care physician in preventing disease and protecting your health and quality of life.
As we start to return to normalcy and plan reunions with the people we’ve missed, I encourage you to make plans to reunite with your medical provider. I assure you, they will be happy to welcome you back.