Missing doctor visits due to COVID fears could lead to bigger problems

Coronavirus

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The coronavirus is front and center when it comes to our health and not everyone is seeing their doctor when they should. Patients are canceling appointments due to fears of contracting coronavirus while they’re at their doctor’s office. Some doctors say their biggest fear is patients missing appointments for regular screenings. They’re afraid that will lead to a much bigger problem in the future.

“As an oncologist, the thing that keeps me up at night is the fear that 6 to 12 months down the road we’re going to run into a situation where we see a whole lot of new cancers that were diagnosed either late in the game or we just missed it altogether,” said Dr. Jennifer Scalici, an oncologist with USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute.

Dr. Scalici says that’s why it’s so important, even right now, for you to keep your healthcare maintenance appointments for mammograms, colonoscopies, and annual OB-GYN screenings.

Because the coronavirus is evolving, the team at USA Health is doing a number of things to try to minimize patients’ risk of exposure. Virtual visits are now being used for patients who don’t necessarily need to see a doctor in person. For those who do, screenings are done before anyone can walk through the doors of MCI. Patients are asked a series of questions about where they’ve been and how they’re feeling, only one visitor is allowed per patient, everyone has to wear a mask have their temperature taken before they walk into the building.

“I think what that’s resulted in is keeping patient’s treatment on time, keeping patients with new diagnoses coming in the building and getting expeditious consultation and treatment,” said Dr. Scalici.

Doctor appointments are also being combined in some cases.

“Patients that have come in that have issues perhaps with blood pressure or issues with their glucose or diabetes, it’s been super helpful to have those patients see their primary care physician via video while sometimes they’re even in our office so we can help modulate moderate some of their other medical problems at the same time that we’re able to treat their cancer,” Dr. Scalici said.

She says she believes virtual visits will revolutionize what’s being done as far as patient care at MCI, and she thinks this is something that will continue.

“Not just from an exposure standpoint but from a reassurance standpoint. Walking in the building terrified of what’s going on outside, terrified with a cancer diagnosis. we want to do as much as we can to reassure that we are here, we are open, we are going to keep you as safe as we can and we still want to move forward and treat the disease that we were treating which is their cancer,” said Dr. Scalici.

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