(ORLANDO, Florida) – In a time when every trip out of the house and every person we come in contact with poses a threat of contracting COVID-19, it can be difficult to weigh the risks and benefits of venturing out. One of the places people are most weary of are medical facilities. A new national survey by the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute finds many Americans are hesitant to make doctor’s appointments and even seek emergency care when COVID-19 rates are high. However, experts say hospitals and doctor’s offices are some of the safest public spaces and that delaying medical care can be very dangerous.
“Because of the extensive protocols in place, COVID-19 transmissions in hospitals are very rare,” said Joel Garcia, MD, an interventional cardiologist at the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute. “There is more risk in not paying attention to symptoms or medical conditions than the benefit of staying home thinking you will not get exposed to COVID-19.”
The survey found 67 percent of Americans would be more concerned about going to medical appointments when COVID-19 rates are high in their area and nearly three in five would even be hesitant to go to the hospital for an emergency.
“I understand their hesitation. But there’s no question, across diagnoses, whether for chronic or acute conditions, the later in the disease process that we see people and can intervene, the worse their outcomes.” said Steven Hoff, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute.
Experts say telehealth has become an invaluable tool during the pandemic. Not only do virtual appointments allow doctors to make initial contact with patients, but they also offer opportunities to explain the safety protocols in place and encourage them to come in if needed, but, in many cases, they can also be used in follow up care and to limit in-person visits.