Distance socially, not medically: Health care a priority

Stephanie Motter

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have taken precautions to stay safe and healthy — wearing face masks and maintaining a safe social distance. There’s been a concerning trend, though, in medical distancing as people cancel, miss or shortchange their health care.

Monument Health launched Your Health is Essential to encourage Coloradans who’ve delayed medical care needs because of the pandemic to talk to their doctors again to get the care they need when they need it.

While Coloradans should continue social distancing, it’s imperative they prioritize their health care.

According to the results of a recent survey, three in four Americans reported a disruption in health care use in canceling or postponing appointments. Another poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that almost half of Americans have skipped or postponed medical care because of the pandemic and 11 percent of those respondents said their conditions worsened because their care was deferred.

Looking at data from employers who partner with Monument Health and offer our whole health product, there’s evidence that almost 40 percent of children are overdue for a pediatric wellness visit since the onset of the pandemic and nearly 35 percent of women are overdue for breast cancer screenings.

Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center — a division of Family Health West and Monument Health partner hospital — has yet to see the same number of patients after the onset of the pandemic than before in its emergency room as well as respiratory therapy and adult outpatient therapy departments and outpatient clinics.

Dr. Korrey Klein, president and chief executive officer of Family Health West, said, “Our volume of primary care services is still down with 11 percent fewer visits having occurred in the more recent months when compared to our pre-COVID volume.”

Michelle Hoy, executive vice president of Mind Springs Health, said there’s been a 50 percent reduction in outpatient mental health therapy services started with the Western Colorado mental health services provider. “Anecdotally, we hear — and much of the data confirms —most Americans are feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed and unwell emotionally, and yet we have fewer people starting treatment than usual,” she said.

Delayed care can result in patient harm. When preventive visits, behavioral health appointments and well child checkups fall to the wayside, chronic conditions go undetected, mental health concerns are left unaddressed and scheduled vaccinations are often deferred.

Vaccinations are an essential part of routine care for school-age children. Monument Health and Western Colorado Pediatric Associations, a division of Primary Care Partners, encourage parents to schedule well child checkups, including vaccinations, as an essential part of back-to-school preparations.

Monument Health also reminds Coloradans to remember influenza vaccinations. With flu season on the horizon, flu vaccinations should be at the top of the priority list in terms of routine care that should not be put off.

Hospitals and physicians have taken every precaution to ensure their waiting rooms and offices remain safe. They’ve  implemented enhanced cleaning and safety protocols, including appointment pre-screenings, mask requirements, socially distanced waiting rooms and staggered appointments. Telemedicine offers an effective tool for people who are at-risk, elderly or simply desire an alternative to in-person care.

Our provider partners have taken every precaution to ensure their offices and waiting rooms are safe so that our members — and their patients — can safely receive the health care they need when they need it

For those who don’t have a primary care provider, Monument Health guarantees access to providers for its members. Monument Health wellness warriors take the time to get to know each member and connect them with providers who meet their unique needs and preferences. Call 683-5630 to get connected.