On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Is it Safe to Seek Medical Care During COVID-19?

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached its initial peak this spring, many health care systems noticed another, equally alarming health concern: people who needed care from doctors and hospitals stopped coming in. Those experiencing even serious issues like chest pain, stroke symptoms or acute appendicitis were avoiding emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and hospitals.

The main reason people were neglecting their health? Many were simply too scared of being exposed to the coronavirus to seek treatment. Others were perhaps mindful of “overburdening” the health care system because the media had so urgently reported that personal protective equipment and clinical staff were stretched thin.

But now, experts are worried because illness and deaths from health problems that were untreated during the pandemic are rising. Doctors note that waiting too long to get help for life-threatening conditions can be more dangerous than infection with the new coronavirus.

For this reason, INTEGRIS Health, and health care systems nationwide, want to share an important message: it’s safe to get your medical conditions addressed right now and it’s okay to visit your doctor or hospital even as the country continues to battle the pandemic.

“Right now it’s absolutely safe to seek health care at a hospital or a clinic for any reason, big or small. Our earlier position about less-sick patients avoiding the emergency department was put into place while we dealt with the possibility of a coronavirus surge overwhelming our health system. We now have extreme precautions in place at all facilities to ensure everywhere is safe for both our patients and our caregivers,” says Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, a physician at INTEGRIS Health.

“While it’s important to continue social distancing and other measures like hand washing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s just as important to seek care when you need it. Delaying medical care is a serious concern, so please don’t wait if you have a condition requiring immediate care,” he says.

What kinds of health care should you seek now?

Emergency departments nationwide have seen a drastic decrease in the volume of patients seeking emergency care over the last few months. For instance, some ED’s report up to a 40 percent decrease in heart attack patients seeking care, even when they are suffering from crushing chest pain. And according to an article from Health.com, multiple ED’s have seen patients waiting several days to seek treatment after having a stroke

But in the case of both strokes and heart attacks, time to treatment is critical. For instance, people having a stroke should see a doctor within the first hour of symptoms (what’s known in the medicine as the “golden hour”) in order to have the best chance of minimizing long-term effects. 

If you’re having stroke symptoms, chest pain, or heart attack symptoms (which can present differently in women) call 911 and seek care immediately. Recent data shows that people are nearly five times more likely to die from heart disease and nearly two times more likely to die from stroke than from COVID-19.

In addition, these are signs of a medical emergency that require immediate attention. Call 911 if you experience:

  • Chest pain, pressure in your chest, shortness of breath 
  • Sudden numbness, weakness, confusion, loss of vision, severe headache
  • Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion, difficulty rousing)
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Significant injury or trauma
  • High fever
  • Possible broken bones
  • Breathing problems
  • Choking

If you are sick, in pain or feel your health is declining, call and talk through your symptoms with your doctor right away. Certain problems may require going to the clinic, an urgent care facility, or the emergency department, and your doctor can advise you which is best.

Likewise, if you have chronic health issues such as hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, COPD or diabetes (just to name a few) regular follow-up visits with your doctor are vital. You should be in touch with your doctor now to see what your appointment schedule should be.

During the current health crisis, it’s even more important to keep patients and communities safe from preventable diseases. Delaying or avoiding routine care such as mammograms, colon cancer screenings, Pap smears, routine vaccinations, or well-baby exams can have negative consequences. For this reason, INTEGRIS health professionals urge everyone to schedule and maintain your check-ups and regular screenings. 

What about virtual doctor’s visits?

For those who are still too nervous to visit a doctor in person, telehealth, sometimes known as telemedicine, can allow doctors and other health professionals to “see” patients using phone or video to deliver health care safely. While it’s not a total replacement for in-person care, telehealth is often a good way to get in touch with a health care provider for diagnosis and advice.

INTEGRIS has made it easy to schedule a telehealth visit. Need more information on how and when to schedule a virtual visit? Click here.

New precautions

Medical facilities nationwide have stepped up to make sure it’s safe for you to get the medical attention you need. At INTEGRIS Health hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms, extra precautions put in place include:

  • Increased cleaning and sanitation processes 
  • Isolated units for only COVID-19 patients
  • Required COVID-19 screening tests for all planned surgeries, procedures or admissions 
  • Implemented temperature checks for anyone entering an INTEGRIS hospital or clinic
  • Universal masking requirements for patients and employees 
  • Curbside check-in for clinic visits
  • Social distancing requirements in waiting areas

Do not let the fear of contracting COVID-19 keep you away from important non-COVID-19 care. INTEGRIS Health has been and will continue to be your most trusted partner for your health. Please allow us to keep you safe from COVID-19 as you receive the vital care you need.

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