Patient wearing a mask during a doctor's appointment
HealthAugust 10, 2020

The new “normal” for patients who don’t have COVID-19

Despite the masks, social distancing, and temperature-check protocols, as restrictions have been loosened in many localities and we adjust to the new “normal” and go about our daily lives, many people still have a healthy dose of trepidation about the perils of leaving home and possibly contracting Covid-19. And understandably so, especially when each day brings the newest statistics on increased numbers of reported cases and deaths.

We wonder if it’s safe to navigate a shopping cart through the narrow aisles of a busy supermarket…use a debit card or pay with cash…stand in a short line at the post office to mail a package or buy stamps…use a self-service handheld pump to fill the car with gas…dine al fresco at a favorite restaurant…get a desperately needed haircut—let alone worry about more heady issues like using public transportation, returning children to school or day-care facilities, caring for an elderly relative, or seeking medical care for ourselves and our families.

What now?

Now that we’re months into the Covid-19 pandemic, we wonder what’s the new “normal” for patients who haven’t tested positive for Covid-19 or don’t have symptoms of this dreaded disease? What should patients do if they had scheduled an appointment with their primary practitioner or a specialist over six months ago…if they require routine bloodwork to be drawn at the lab…if they suddenly develop symptoms of a UTI…if they need to undergo a diagnostic test or have outpatient surgery…if they fall and possibly break an arm or a leg? The scenarios are endless, and so are the needs of patients and their families. Is it safe for these patients to visit a practitioner’s office, have blood drawn at a lab, go to the emergency department, have outpatient surgery, or stay in a hospital? Or should they continue to postpone appointments or delay seeking non-emergency medical care?

Concerns of a patient

I’m not a nurse, and I don’t work in a hospital or health care setting. I’m a nursing editor who is lucky enough to work from home these days. But I’m also a concerned patient that has been hospitalized in the past and knows the importance of routine medical care. I have a history of hypertension controlled by medication, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, bilateral knee replacements, squamous cell carcinoma, Charcot foot, and neuropathy. In 2018, I developed sudden, severe abdominal pain that sent me to the emergency department, where a CT scan revealed an ovarian mass. I was hospitalized for 11 days for infectious colitis and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and then later underwent a total hysterectomy and abdominal washing to successfully treat the cancer. And early in the pandemic, before all the Covid-19 restrictions were in place, I was diagnosed with cataracts and scheduled for surgery, which was postponed for three months until the surgical center reopened in June.

Returning for routine care

Although the protocols for resuming “normal,” routine patient visits and hospital stays may vary in different parts of the country depending on the number of patients with Covid-19 and available services and resources, the principles are still the same…patients with acute or ongoing medical conditions need to be assessed and treated promptly and should not delay seeking medical attention because of the fear of contracting Covid-19 or putting an undue burden on health care facilities. They shouldn’t hesitate to contact their primary practitioner to make an in-person or virtual appointment or to follow up with lab tests and other diagnostic procedures. They should feel comfortable going to the emergency department or hospital when necessary.

A matter of trust

According to the CMS, “Moving forward, hospitals and physicians must be prepared to not only care for patients with Covid-19 (including any surge in cases), but also to resume all healthcare that was postponed due to the pandemic. Patients have ongoing medical needs, may require preventive services such as vaccinations, or may have rescheduled surgeries that were postponed due to the public emergency (CMS 2020).” Patients need to be confident when seeking care and be able to trust that healthcare providers are doing their best to keep patients, families, and their communities safe.

Lippincott Solutions note: for the latest coverage on Covid-19 by the Lippincott Nursing team, please visit nursingcenter.com/coronavirus.

References

American College of Surgeons. (2020). Covid-19 and surgical procedures: A guide for patients. Accessed August 2020 via the web at facs.org/covid-19/clinical-guidance/patient-guide

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19): Your health. Accessed August 2020 via the web at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/index.html

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2020). Re-opening America: What patients should know about seeking healthcare. Accessed August 2020 via the web at cms.gov/files/document/covid-what-patients-should-know-about-seeking-health-care.pdf

Song, H., et al. (2020). How hospitals can meet the needs of non-Covid patients during the pandemic. Harvard Business Review. Accessed August 2020 via the web at hbr.org/2020/07/how-hospitals-can-meet-the-needs-of-non-covid-patients-during-the-pandemic

About the author

Diane Labus is the Senior Managing Editor for the Lippincott Solutions, Point-of-Care product, Lippincott Advisor.

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