Patients are understandably nervous about the idea of venturing out of their home during these uncertain times. Doctor’s offices and hospitals have felt the effect of patients deciding to skip non-COVID related treatment. While providers report a drop in patients for regular checkups, and elective surgeries being postponed, hospitals have been seeing patients who are sicker than ever.
These patients are deciding to ignore potential serious illnesses to avoid possible COVID exposure. These “lost patients” are putting off care to limit exposure, but in doing so are putting themselves at higher risk for more serious complications in the long run. What can providers do to rescue them?
Why Patients are Putting Off Care
COVID-19 has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind thanks to it dominating every news cycle. The images of hospitals being overwhelmed with patients and doctors and nurses bending under the pressure of caring for so many critically ill patients have many afraid of seeking help. The belief is that doctor’s offices and hospitals are unsafe and are in fact breeding grounds for the virus. This “COVID Phobia” has created a new spike in the number of non-COVID related deaths across the United States.
As you can see in the above video there has been an alarming 34% drop nationwide in 911 calls as patients try to deal with symptoms on their own. This typically does not turn out well for the patient. In just one Texas city alone, there has been a reported 164% increase in cardiac arrest patients being declared dead on scene.
This drop in seeking emergency care and upswing in related deaths is incredibly concerning. While avoiding exposure to COVID-19 is advised, waiting until conditions have progressed to the point where there isn’t much that can be done to prevent long-term damage or death is concerning. It is also unnecessary for patients to suffer and become sicker while trying to stay healthy.
How to Help Lost Patients
Now more than ever, it’s critical to engage your patients. Begin by reaching out to patients either by phone or email. Check in to see how they’re doing, especially your chronic care patients. Not only is this a billable event for you, but it encourages your patients to seek care for non-COVID related issues. Your patients can be remotely monitored, and they might not know it, which makes patient engagement and education in this time so important. Remind them that if they have any concern, your practice is available by phone to help them figure out how to proceed with their care and that it may be possible to receive it without going into the office.
As always, catching things early can prevent illnesses and other conditions from progressing to something more serious. Thanks to regulations being relaxed, it is now more accessible than ever to treat patients via telehealth solutions. A HIPPA-compliant solution can not only help you keep your appointments when patients call to cancel, it can also be a life-saving tool for those considering putting off care for serious conditions in fear of virus exposure.
For those more serious conditions that require in-office visits, you can assure your patients during your outreach that you’re taking every precaution to keep them safe. Having a response plan in place, including “sick days” and “well days” as well as triaging outside of the office itself can limit exposure risk.
Proactively caring for your patients is more important than ever. In the face of the pandemic, patients are understandably trying to take measures to stay safe and healthy. However, they can at times make missteps in their care and end up worse off than if they were treated. It’s important to keep these lost patients from getting worse. Having outreach strategy in place is going to keep your patients safe and healthy during this pandemic.