It’s been a challenging few years, and many people have put getting health care services on the back burner while they dealt with life during a global pandemic. Unfortunately, previous virus outbreaks, such as SARS, have shown us that waiting too long for routine care can lead to complications down the line.
If you postponed the care and screenings you needed during the pandemic, it’s time to talk with your providers about how you can get back on track. Here are six health care services to make a priority:
1. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
As the world reeled in response to the pandemic, scientists raced to develop COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, we have several safe and effective vaccines that can protect us against dying or getting seriously ill from COVID-19. The Commonwealth Fund estimates that these vaccines prevented an additional 1.1 million deaths and more than 10 million hospitalizations in the United States alone. Most health experts agree that the number one thing you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe is to get COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as recommended.
2. Routine vaccinations
One of the consequences of putting off regular visits to health care providers during the pandemic is that many people didn’t get regular vaccines. This trend has health professionals concerned about a possible rise in preventable disease, such as measles and shingles. If you or your family members have put off routine vaccinations, talk with your providers about getting those shots now.
3. Non-COVID medical emergencies
Some people avoided the emergency room during the pandemic even when they had troubling symptoms. This worries many health professionals who know that heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions didn’t hit the pause button because of the pandemic. If you or a loved one is experiencing any emergency symptoms like difficulty breathing, prolonged loss of consciousness, chest pain and heaviness, or severe bleeding, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room right away.
4. Chronic conditions
Those with chronic illness were and continue to be at a higher risk for COVID-19, so it’s understandable that fear of exposure may have kept them from getting their routine care. However, it’s always important to take steps to manage chronic conditions. If you haven’t been to your provider, make an appointment as soon as you can. Medical offices have been taking extra precautions to help keep their patients safe. If you’re still worried, you may be able to schedule a telehealth visit and talk with your provider on the telephone or through video visits.
5. Annual physicals and routine screenings
Getting a yearly check-up is another example of appointments that may have been missed, especially for those who had no symptoms. Yearly check-ups are vital even when you feel well. During these visits, your provider checks your overall health and screens for problems before they become serious health concerns. If you’ve missed your yearly check-ups, schedule one now. If you’re still uncomfortable because of COVID-19, call your primary care provider’s (PCP) office and share your concerns. Your PCP is someone you can trust to help you stay healthy and safe. They may recommend a telehealth visit and can tell you what screenings tests you may need.
6. Mental health screening and counseling
Coping with the pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. Just think of some of the things many of us have been dealing with. Loss of a loved one to COVID. Fears about keeping our family safe during COVID. Working or learning from home. Isolation and social distancing. It’s no wonder so many of us have been feeling anxious, depressed or irritable. If you are feeling this way, you are not alone. And the good news is that help is available. Talk to your PCP for support or call your insurance company to find out which services are available to you. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. For immediate help, call 911.
• The bottom line:
The pandemic isn’t behind us. In fact, some health experts say it may never be fully eliminated. It’s up to all of us to take steps to protect ourselves from COVID-19 and to get the ongoing health care services we need to be as healthy as we can.
Tufts Health Plan is one of the few health plans in Massachusetts to offer coverage across the life span regardless of age or circumstance. This coverage includes Medicaid/subsidized, commercial and Medicare health plans. To learn more, visit tuftshealthplan.com.