Delays Persist For Non-COVID-19 Patients
In the United States the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting almost every state as there are shelter in place orders by the governors and restrictions are being placed on whether patients can get in to see their providers. As of Monday, April 27, we are in our seventh week of quarantine. Will these restrictions lead to an increase in misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis?
«Patients and their family members need to be insistent if they feel that they have a condition that is progressing and requires not just a phone call from a doctor, but a visit to the doctor’s office for a physical examination.»
According to a study done by researchers at John Hopkins University, an estimated 100,000 Americans die or are permanently injured each year due to a medical diagnosis that is either incorrect or the correct diagnosis is delayed. These statistics were when patients had the ability to go into the hospital or into the doctor’s office to be treated and examined without COVID-19 restrictions. What are these statistics going to look like for 2020?
“People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections related to COVID-19."
Dr. Scott W. Atlas who is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, reported in an op-ed in The Hill on Friday that “People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections”, related to COVID-19."
Dr. Atlas goes on to report that most states have stopped non-essential or elective surgeries. He believes that this has prevented diagnoses of potentially life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, and brain aneurysms. He also reports that treatment for the most serious illnesses have been missed.
«Almost all hospitals are not allowing visitors, due to COVID-19. You will be in the room without your loved one, or care partner, so it is very important that you have everything written down and you are prepared to tell them your story.»
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions that are in place it has been very difficult to get appoinmtents with doctors, to schedule previously ordered imaging studies, lab tests etc. Providers are working less hours and have less staff. So, what can patients and their families do? Patients and their family members need to be insistent if they feel that they have a condition that is progressing and requires not just a phone call from a doctor, but a visit to the doctor’s office for a physical examination.
Many doctor offices and almost all hospitals are not allowing visitors, due to COVID-19. You will be in the room without your loved one, or care partner, so it is very important that you have everything written down and you are prepared to tell them your story. It is also important that the doctors have all of your medical information, this helps them come to a correct diagnosis and prescribe the correct treatment plan.
Once you can get in front of the doctor be prepared to tell him/her very concisely about your symptoms. When did they start, does anything help relieve them, do they radiate, what is your pain level, have you had a fever, chills, be specific! I recommend you have everything written down, bring a list of all your current medications, a health history, and any concerns you have. Ask the doctor what their plan is to determine your diagnosis, and to begin treatment.
Take Notes! You most likely will not remember everything the doctor and nurse tells you. You can ask if you can call your loved one when the doctor comes in and have them on speaker phone so they can hear what the doctor is saying. They may have questions for the doctor too.
While it is important to protect the vulnerable and remain in quarantine for a while longer, you should not ignore signs and symptoms that may indicate an underlying illness or disease that requires medical attention.
As a patient advocate, I have a medical information kit that I offer my clients so they can have their pertinent information with them when they go to the doctor’s office or emergency room. If all this seems overwhelming, hiring a patient advocate can help relieve the stress and anxiety and bring you peace of mind. Patient advocates are problem solvers who know the healthcare system, and work diligently to help you and your family get the answers, and the care your deserve.
Cindy Johnson, BCPA, CSA®
Patient Advocate Agency