Since the beginning of March, nearly every headline has revolved around the coronavirus. From lockdowns and ventilators to economic impacts and protests, the pandemic has dramatically influenced every aspect of life as we know it.
This includes an influence on non-COVID-19 medical care. As Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, MD, chief medical officer at Scripps, explains, “I’m concerned that people experiencing life-threatening conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke, are delaying seeking emergency help out of fear of contracting the virus in the hospital or may be worried about adding additional strain to the medical system. We want people to know that if you are experiencing a true emergency, we will always be there for you.”
Here are the most important points you should know about seeking medical care as a non-coronavirus patient.
Keep Your Essential Appointments
The coronavirus pandemic may be preoccupying our attention, but it hasn’t eliminated the need for other types of essential medical care. If you have a chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease, your doctor visits are just as important as they were before the COVID-19 outbreak. Similarly, pregnant and postpartum women still need OB-GYN care and support.
Ask About Telehealth Options
Fortunately, many essential appointments and non-urgent medical care can be completed using telehealth platforms like videoconferencing.
As plastic surgeon Dr. Danielle LeBlanc said in a statement, “Non-urgent medical care is still happening every day. It just isn’t happening the way it normally does with face-to-face medical visits.” She continued, “While I cannot physically examine them, patients are able to offer valuable information and give enough feedback for me to make medical decisions.”
It’s for this reason that health officials are urging patients with serious medical needs to contact their doctors. Many fear that they’ll place a heavier burden on medical professionals or make themselves vulnerable to COVID-19, but it’s possible to provide and receive high-quality care without those risks.
Even symptoms like rashes, ear pain, and eye redness can be treated at urgent care centers or using videoconferencing tools.
Don’t Procrastinate on Emergency Care
Though the focus of emergency room care has been on the influx of COVID-19 patients, the reality is that ERs are still equipped to help patients with other emergency needs. Don’t procrastinate on receiving your own emergency care, especially if you experience these symptoms:
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Weakness or numbness on one side
- Slurred speech
- Serious burns
- Head or eye injury
- Broken bones
- Pregnancy complications
Dr. Sharieff emphasizes, “Under no circumstance should you avoid going to an emergency room or calling 911 if you feel that your symptoms are truly serious. Every minute that you delay, the likelihood of you having a worse outcome increases.”