A recent poll showed that 75% of patients want to return to their doctor’s office after remaining home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The poll, conducted on May 20 by Engagious, the Sports and Leisure Research Group and ROKK Solution, included 583 participants from across the United States, according to a press release issued by the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed).
“We already knew that too many patients have been going without the care that is absolutely vital to their health, and what this poll confirms is that patients themselves are anxious and ready to continue the care that was put on pause because of COVID-19,” Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of AdvaMed, said in the press release. “It’s time for these essential medical procedures to resume.”
In addition, a survey of 2,250 primary care patients conducted by the Primary Care Collaborative and the Larry A. Green Center showed that 35% of respondents reported they were overdue for a wellness visit, 32% reported they were overdue for preventive care and 19% reported they were due for a visit for chronic care. Furthermore, 23% actively avoided medical care when they were sick or injured during the pandemic.
“We know that, even as many states begin to reopen, many of us are fearful of returning to our normal way of life,” Ali Khan, MD, MPP, FACP, executive medical director at Oak Street Health and faculty member in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, told Healio Primary Care. “That’s natural and understandable, but it may also be deadly.”
He explained that compared with previous years, 76,000 more Americans died from mid-March to early May 2020, “and not all of those were due to COVID-19 — uncontrolled heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases all contributed to those terrible losses.”
Khan noted that returning to PCPs is particularly important for vulnerable groups who may not have access to telehealth services, including low-income communities that may not have reliable internet or phone services.
“Getting everyone the care they need is critical,” he said. “It saves lives — and for many of us, that means coming back into a doctor’s office where they can feel safe that their health isn’t being placed further at risk by unwanted COVID-19 exposure.”
To help ensure primary care offices are prepared for returning patients, staff should follow basic hygiene and cleaning recommendations, invest in training to ensure safety requirements are met, and be prepared for things to take longer than usual, Khan said.
“What once took 20 minutes to handle may now need 30, whether that’s because the physician is putting on and taking off PPE or because patients need that extra time to talk through their fears with someone they trust,” Khan said. “We’ll become more efficient over time, but we’ll never regret investing the time in our patients that they really need right now.”