COVID-19: The Effects of Delaying Routine Medical Care

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For the past three months, the world has been focused on caring for the people that have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive. However, there is more to this pandemic than the virus itself. Many Americans are ignoring their routine medical care or life-threatening symptoms to allow the health systems to care for COVID-19 patients or because of the stay-at-home orders.

Many people think that some health care appointments and procedures are considered elective. The word “elective” implies it is optional, but it just means it can be planned in advance and is a non-emergent surgery. Putting off your cataract surgery or colonoscopy to stay out of the hospital, doesn’t mean you don’t need the procedure.

By delaying routine medical care, you could be affecting your long-term health as well as your quality of life.

Health Screenings Detect Disease Early When it is Most Treatable

Regular health screenings such as annual wellness visits, diabetes screening, eye exams, colonoscopies, mammograms, and women’s health visits are more than a check-in with your doctor—they detect disease. They often detect disease or cancer early when it is most treatable.

Mammogram

Mammograms, like other screenings, have been proven to save lives. Terri Bogan, Nurse Manager for the St. Elizabeth Breast Centers, says “There is no reason to delay your screening mammogram. More than 90% of small early-stage breast cancers are curable – which means early detection is a key piece to identifying and treating breast cancer.”

The guideline is women ages 40 to 49 may have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. Women ages 50 to 75 should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years depending on their risk factors, to check for breast cancer. Talk to your provider about what is best for you.

Colonoscopy

Colon cancer affects about 1 in 20 people in the United States and is one preventative screening you should schedule. Colon cancer begins as polyps in the colon or rectum. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous. A colonoscopy is one of the few cancer screening tests that can discover cancer and remove it in the same procedure.

Ray Lynn Couch, APRN, a St. Elizabeth Physicians Gastroenterology specialist says, “Delaying a colonoscopy can put you at risk for developing cancer. A colonoscopy is not only screening for cancer, it is preventing it, as we remove any polyps we find during the procedure.”

According to the American Cancer Society, you should start having regular colonoscopies at age 45, and sooner if you are at high risk. If you are in good health, you should continue to have colonoscopies every ten years through the age of 75. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or have inflammatory bowel disease, your doctor may recommend screening earlier and more often.

Surgery Options with a Quicker Recovery

St. Elizabeth Healthcare has always been at the forefront of surgical innovation. Our minimally invasive surgical options and outpatient procedures help you recover quicker, at home.

Minimally Invasive and Robotic-assisted Surgeries

Robotic surgery, or robot-assisted surgery, allows our doctors to perform many types of complex procedures with more precision, flexibility, and control than is possible with conventional techniques. Robotic surgery is usually associated with minimally invasive surgery — procedures performed through tiny incisions. It is also sometimes used in certain traditional open surgical procedures. The benefits of minimally invasive surgery include:

  • Fewer complications, such as surgical site infection
  • Less pain and blood loss
  • Quicker recovery
  • Smaller, less noticeable scars

Same-day Joint Replacement

At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, we have also developed advanced techniques that allow most knee and ankle replacements to be done as same-day surgery. Hip and shoulder replacement surgery can also be done on an outpatient basis if you meet certain criteria, and your pain can be controlled after surgery.

Good Health Improves Your Quality of Life

Putting off health care can impact your daily life significantly, from not seeing well while driving to living with debilitating joint pain.

Dr. Michael Greiwe, shoulder replacement surgeon with OrthoCincy Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine who practices at St. Elizabeth Healthcare says it best, “We don’t want anyone living with pain, or having their lifestyle significantly impacted when we can help them feel better.”

Joint Replacement Surgery

Delaying a joint replacement means you are living with the pain longer. Often, pain isn’t’ the only issue, decreased mobility can make your daily routine difficult. Delaying a joint replacement can cause more damage to the joint. Arthritis deteriorates your joint, and allowing the joint to deteriorate can cause bone and tendon deformities. This not only means more pain and less function, it could also mean a more difficult recovery from surgery.

Eye Exams

Annual eye exams can help detect disease and give you relief from eye pain or loss of vision. Cataract surgery is a good example of how delaying care can impact your daily life – including feeling unsafe driving during the day or missing key parts of your life due to poor vision. If you haven’t had your eyes checked in the last year, St. Elizabeth specialists recommend a follow-up visit to re-establish the state and condition of your eye health.

Women’s Health Visits

An alternative to being seen in the office is a virtual visit. If you are having trouble with an overactive bladder, bladder control or you think your pelvic organs are dropping, you may be able to start the process with a virtual visit with our Urogynecology team. St. Elizabeth has a robust virtual platform in place and encourage all of our patients to connect with our office as a first step.

Dr. Sonali Raman, Lead Physician at St. Elizabeth Physicians Urogynecology has spearheaded the transition to virtual visits and pleased with the positive impact on patient care.

“Virtual visits are best right now unless you need to be seen in person for an examination or in-office procedure,” says Dr. Raman. “Our patients and their safety are our top priority, and we are committed to providing them with optimal care – whether that is virtual or in person.”

St. Elizabeth: We’re Here for You

Dr. Heidi Murley, Clinical Medical Director of Surgery at St. Elizabeth Physicians, says, “Now that we are open to perform any procedure of appointment while meeting specific guidelines, we want to reassure patients that St. Elizabeth is safe and ready for you.”

St. Elizabeth Healthcare is working with county officials, state officials, and federal officials and watching the CDC guidelines for preparedness and treatment to adapt to new knowledge or data. Visit stelizabeth.com/openandsafe for more information about our safety precautions and what you can expect when you visit one of our facilities.