Commentary: Now is the time to get the medical care you need

By Wayne A. Smith and Mark B. Thompson

According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 48% of Americans said they, or a family member, have delayed medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic. Of those individuals, 11% said their condition worsened as a result of the delayed care.

Unfortunately, we have heard similar stories here in Delaware, where individuals have avoided seeking medical attention because they fear they may come in contact with coronavirus at a hospital or medical office.

This is the wrong approach. You will be much safer seeking medical care when you need it than delaying care and letting your injury or illness worsen, or even become life-threatening.

Wayne Smith

Don’t wait!

Now is the time to get the medical care you need. Delaware hospitals and medical practices are safe, open and ready to care for you. While many noncritical surgeries and procedures were canceled during the height of the pandemic to make room for COVID-19 patients, steady decreases in hospitalizations due to the virus have allowed elective and nonurgent services to resume.

Doctors, nurses, and hospital and health care workers have taken every precaution to ensure that patients are protected from infection when they come to their doctor’s office or emergency room. From employee screening to extra cleanings of treatment rooms and common areas, Delaware medical offices and hospitals are doing everything possible to keep you safe from COVID-19.

Consistent with Delaware Division of Public Health guidance, Delaware hospitals and medical practices have begun to resume certain elective and nonurgent medical procedures and appointments, such as pediatric vaccinations, early child care, and management of existing medical or behavioral health conditions. Other services (including routine primary care visits) as prioritized by the health care provider may also resume as long as safeguards such as a two-week supply of personal protective equipment are in place.

“Delaware hospitals and health care providers are committed to returning to normal operations in a measured way that protects our patients and staff. We will continue to follow national and state guidelines, that include mitigation efforts, so that we can serve our patients in the safest manner possible,” said Terry M. Murphy, FACHE, president and CEO of Bayhealth and chair of the Delaware Healthcare Association board of directors.

Just as it is critical not to delay seeking medical care for an illness or injury that could get worse over time, it is also important to keep up with regular preventive care. Primary care allows for both prevention care and early identification and treatment of multiple chronic conditions that otherwise may result in costly and debilitating outcomes. Recent declines in hospitalizations, coupled with possibility that the spread of COVID-19 may lessen this summer signals that now is a good time to get the care you need, particularly as some experts are forecasting a second wave of COVID-19 this fall.

Mark Thompson

“It is critically important that Delawareans prioritize their health care and not postpone vaccinations, annual exams, follow-up appointments or preventive testing, as well as any health concerns. Delaware’s physicians are prepared and ready with strong safety precautions in place to protect patients and staff – now may be the safest time in our health care history to see a physician,” said Dr. Joseph J. Straight, president of the Medical Society of Delaware.

If you are still uncertain about seeking in-person medical care during the pandemic, telehealth remains an important option for seeking nonemergency care. Telehealth can be provided for a variety of services ranging from routine primary care visits to screening for COVID-19. Rather than avoiding care all together, inquire about your medical provider’s telehealth services. You may be surprised to learn that many more providers are now offering telehealth during the pandemic and a majority of insurance plans cover telemedicine without a co-pay.

Now is the time to get the medical care you need. Delaware hospitals and medical offices are open, safe and ready to care for you.

Wayne A. Smith is president and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association. Mark B. Thompson is executive director of the Medical Society of Delaware.