During the pandemic many Americans are delaying or foregoing health treatments

·2-min read
While many Americans have postponed medical appointments due to the pandemic, researchers believe that telemedicine is a solution to avoid intervening too late in the event of a potential illness.

Can the fear of contracting covid-19 be dangerous for the health of people with chronic illnesses or those in need of emergency care? A study conducted by American researchers suggests that the intention among some people to postpone or cancel medical appointments due to the pandemic could be harmful in the long term.

Conducted by a team of researchers from the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute, the study found that more than two-thirds of Americans surveyed (67%) are more concerned about going to a medical appointment when covid-19 levels are high in their immediate environment, and nearly six in ten (57%) are reluctant to go to the hospital, even in an emergency.

While these figures are for the United States, it is a global observation that worries healthcare professionals around the world. According to recent data published by online medical booking site Doctolib, cancellations of appointments with healthcare professionals increased by 30% during the first days of the second lockdown in France in late October/early November 2020.

Hospitals and doctors' offices are among the safest places to be, say US researchers. "Because of the extensive protocols in place, COVID-19 transmissions in hospitals are very rare," explains Joel Garcia of the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute.He also points out that staying at home to avoid exposure to covid-19 can be harmful if you are neglecting a poor health condition at the same time.

The study also reveals that nearly half of Americans (49%) do not plan to reschedule missed medical appointments until the health situation in their immediate geographic environment improves, even though they are just as concerned (49%) that their health will be affected in the long run.

"I understand their hesitation. But there's no question, across diagnoses, whether for chronic or acute conditions, the later in the disease process that we see people and can intervene, the worse their outcomes," notes Steven Hoff, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute.

The experts highlight the benefits of telehealth to alleviate this problem, whether for remote medical monitoring or to explain the safety protocols put in place to encourage people to travel. "We have been fortunate that we've been able to accelerate the development of telehealth services during the COVID era because of the need that was created. Being able to actually reach out to the patient in that venue allows us to educate patients better and get them in the door if we need to see them in person," concludes Dr. Garcia