And 11 percent reported a condition worsening as a result. UCLA internist Robert D. Ashley, MD, and UCLA family medicine specialist Marc Morse, MD, in Santa Monica, explain the importance of primary care visits and measures in place to keep patients safe.
“Regular health screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap smears, decrease mortality. It’s not good to let them slide for long periods of time,” Dr. Ashley says. “Also, minor health issues can become serious when left untreated.” “Chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure can get markedly worse if patients don’t get regular follow-up and lab tests,” Dr. Morse says. “That also puts patients at risk for serious complications downstream.”
“Children need to stay current on their vaccinations,” says Dr. Ashley. Most vaccines are required for children under age 2, but additional ones are administered to children at ages 4 (prior to kindergarten), 11 (before middle school) and 16. Dr. Ashley notes that pediatricians and family physicians monitor children’s growth and development. The sooner they catch and address any potential delays, the better the outcome.
For both children and adults, Dr. Morse says, primary care providers can address mental health issues “During this time of COVID, we’re seeing more anxiety, depression and sleep issues. Primary care physicians can be a first line of contact. We can also talk about the newest COVID findings and how to reduce risk. Sometimes the human interaction patients have with their doctor can be a source of comfort and reassurance.”
Drs. Ashley and Morse report that all physicians, staff and patients over age 2 must wear masks in UCLA hospitals and clinics. A strict protocol ensures rooms are disinfected between visits, and common areas are cleaned throughout the day. Patients are screened by phone for any concerning symptoms prior to their appointment and again at the door, where their temperature also is taken. Physicians and staff also are screened upon arrival. Patients are seen quickly so they spend minimal time in waiting rooms, which are arranged to promote physical distancing.
Patients who still are not comfortable visiting the office may opt for video or telephone appointments, which can be effective for certain issues. Both physicians urge patients to get their flu shots. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months, and is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.