The way we access health care continues to evolve. This has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while some people may be considering skipping visits to the doctor to reduce the risk of exposure, the decision to delay preventive care may have unintended consequences — especially for older adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states about 40% of adults have delayed or avoided medical care since the pandemic began. This includes a third of those who said they’ve avoided routine annual exams.
“Patients and their caregivers should be wary that avoiding or delaying routine care or avoiding the doctor may have serious, even deadly consequences,” said Dr. Saurabha Bhatnagar, chief medical officer for UnitedHealth Group. “For example, missed diabetes checks could cause high blood sugar levels to go unnoticed and avoiding annual exams could allow chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, to worsen.”
To help ensure a safe environment, health providers have been adjusting the way their offices and clinics function, in order to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
This may often be through the following measures:
- Mandatory masks indoors
- Staggered scheduling
- Deliberate social distancing and a safer check-in process (including having patients wait in the car until the doctor is ready)
- Limiting the number of people in the waiting room
- Drive-through options for some screenings, tests or vaccinations
In addition to these efforts, alternative care options to in-person visits continue to gain popularity. Telehealth may be a convenient option to connect with a doctor and can be used for annual wellness visits or other health needs that arise. Many UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members may also be able to take advantage of HouseCalls, which offers those eligible a yearly visit with a licensed practitioner from the comfort of their home.
Beyond seeking regular care, there are also plenty of things you can do to make sure you’re prepared through the winter season and beyond. This includes getting your flu shot, asking your doctor about telehealth or at-home care options that may be available, and staying on top of your mental health and well-being.
However you receive care, it’s important to keep it going. Your care team will be able to work with you every step of the way to help make sure that care is both accessible and safe.
HouseCalls may not be available on all plans.
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.