Like many, the Hindi family in Oak Forest has been putting off its regular doctor visits.
“We are in pretty strict lockdown over here,” Andrea Hindi said. “The entire family is overdue for dental checkups. (My daughter) is overdue for her annual checkup. The dog is due for shots soon, but that, too, will get pushed until the last possible minute.”
A late June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation said about half of adults polled (52 percent) say they or another family member in their household skipped or postponed some type of medical or dental care because of the coronavirus pandemic, including 42 percent who personally skipped or postponed care. Dental care was the most likely to be skipped or postponed, followed by regular check-ups or physical exams.
Dr. Deepti Mishra, vice president of medical operations with Memorial Hermann Medical Group, said they are encouraging patients to come in for routine check-ups since they have safe wait measures in place.
“Pediatric patients need to stay on track with routine vaccinations and we want to ensure that we are doing routine mammograms (and) colonoscopies,” Mishra said. “The problem with waiting on routine screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies is that you may delay diagnosis and find cancer at a more advanced stage. It’s much better to find these conditions early to begin immediate treatment.”
Mishra noted that the elderly population especially is avoiding in-person annual wellness visits.
“We are trying to do them virtually as they are a more vulnerable population,” she said.
To put others at ease, Memorial Hermann is implementing a “Safe Wait” measure that enforces social distancing in its waiting areas, staggering scheduled appointments and, when necessary, asking patients to wait in their vehicles for their appointments.
Additional safety enhancements include screening for all employees, physicians and patients upon entering any Memorial Hermann facility, including Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital at 1635 N Loop W. They provide a surgical mask to wear after people clear the screening process.
Employees and physicians caring for patients will be provided the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE). And infection prevention control best practices, including the thorough cleaning and sterilization efforts in between each patient visit, will continue. All patients scheduled for surgery are tested for COVID-19.
While some appointments can be handled through a telehealth visit, some can’t. Some exceptions to consider are physicals, gynecological exams and some cardiac symptoms (chest pain and palpitations) that are likely better seen in person.
“Memorial Hermann implemented telehealth rapidly in mid-March,” Mishra said. “During the stay-at-home shelter the majority (80 percent) of our visits were telehealth visits. We continue to see 20-30 percent of our visits (through) telehealth.”