Getting back to the medical care you missed during the COVID-19 pandemic


Even if you managed to avoid COVID-19, you may still suffer health-related consequences if you delayed or missed routine medical care during the pandemic.

According to a survey conducted by the Urban Institute, more than one-third of adults aged 18 to 64 postponed or went without medical care over the past year. More than 30% of those adults say missing that care or getting it late negatively affected their health, ability to work or ability to perform other daily activities.

Whether you missed appointments out of fear of COVID-19 exposure or found limited access to medical services, it’s time to reclaim your health. Regular checkups and screenings help you prevent serious conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), cancer and pneumonia. Finding issues early also increases your chance of successful treatment.

Not sure where to start? Follow these simple steps to get back on track in no time:

Identify your missed health appointments

The first step in reclaiming your health is figuring out exactly what medical care you need to schedule. If you answer no to any of the following questions, you’ll need to address that area of your health:

  • Have you had a well visit within the past 12 months? Most primary care physicians (PCP) recommend a checkup every one to two years. If you haven’t been to your PCP in over a year, make an appointment. Your doctor will check your blood pressure and help you get the tests and screenings you missed.
  • Are you up to date with recommended preventive care? Lab tests, immunizations and cancer screenings are vital to good long-term health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have specific preventive care recommendations for all adults. Talk to your doctor about what preventive care you need.
  • Have you checked in with your doctor or specialist about any chronic conditions in the past six months? When it comes to doctor’s visits, the average recommendation for most stable chronic conditions is every six months. Give your doctor a call if you aren’t sure whether an appointment is necessary.
  • Have you been to the dentist in the past six months? Dental visits are not just about cleaning your teeth. Your dentist also performs an important screening to look for signs of oral cancer and gum disease.
  • Are your prescriptions refilled and up to date? Good health means taking your medications as prescribed. Missed medications for chronic conditions and mental health issues may lead to unpleasant side effects and increased risk of the condition you’re trying to manage. If you’ve run out of refills or your medication has expired, give your doctor a call to remedy the situation.

Create a list of medical appointments to schedule

Between screenings, specialists and your PCP, you may have a lot of appointments to make. Compile a list of all the providers and their phone numbers. If you aren’t a fan of making phone calls or want to tackle your list after-hours, check to see if your providers offer online scheduling through a patient portal.

Set aside a block of time to work your way through the list. As you make each appointment, add it to your calendar so you don’t overbook yourself on a particular day or week.

Start with your primary care provider (PCP)

If you don’t have much time for appointments, begin with a visit to your PCP. Your PCP is equipped to address a wide range of issues. Also, it’s often easier to get an appointment with your PCP than with some specialists.

At the checkup, your doctor can run many of the routine lab tests you’ve missed and immediately address any issues with prescriptions, mental health or chronic conditions. Your PCP can also determine which screenings and vaccinations need to be a priority.

Consider a virtual doctor’s visit

If the appointment you’re scheduling won’t require any physical tests or screenings, consider opting for a virtual visit. Telehealth options allow specialists and mental health providers to assess your condition and address any concerns while you remain at home. If a virtual visit reveals a larger concern, the provider can quickly schedule you for an in-person appointment. If you need to get back on track with your medical care, make an appointment with a UCLA Health primary care provider.