Medical appointments and the pandemic

By Angela Williams

Which medical appointments are still necessary during the pandemic?

That’s a bit of a trick question, actually! The short answer is: Most of them. Even during a global pandemic, routine medical appointments are still important.

It’s a common question, though. It seems to make sense that you’d want to stay home and avoid medical facilities during a time when COVID-19 delta variant cases are on the rise.

But it’s essential that you continue to keep up with regular medical appointments. Not doing so can be a danger to your health.

The costs of skipping appointments

There’s a saying that “prevention is the best medicine.” It’s true—it’s always better to take steps to prevent an illness or injury  first rather than to treat it afterward.

When it comes to some of the most serious health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, early detection is essential. That’s why health care professionals recommend health screenings. These tests provide you and your doctor with vital information about your current health status. They can spot potential problems in the earliest stages when they’re most treatable.

Routine medical appointments, including regular checkups with your doctor and age-appropriate screenings, play a key role in maintaining optimal health. Skipping them is never recommended, even during a pandemic.

But why? When you skip a screening, such as a mammogram or a colonoscopy, you miss out on an opportunity to check in with your body. If cancer or precancerous cells are present at the time you miss your appointment, by the time you have the screening several months or a year from now, that cancer will have grown.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have skipped routine medical appointments and screenings. This has led to a phenomenon known as “health debt.” Health debt is the total impact of changes in routine health behavior during the pandemic that will have long-term negative effects on your health.

While the true cost of neglecting medical appointments during the pandemic won’t be known for a while, there is already evidence that skipped screenings and checkups have led to an increase in doctors diagnosing conditions in advanced stages.

That’s evidence enough that it’s important to keep up with routine medical appointments, including regular checkups and any screenings your doctor recommends.

The don’t-skip medical appointments

Which medical appointments do you need as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic? In most cases, you can safely go to any type of medical appointment you would typically have.

But if you’re concerned about COVID-19 and want to limit your potential exposure, you can safely delay appointments for purely aesthetic medical or dental purposes.

Medical appointments related to the prevention or treatment of illness shouldn’t be skipped. Keep these appointments on your schedule:
  • Regular checkups. Most people have a routine checkup on an annual basis, but yours may be more frequent if you have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.
  • Prenatal care. Medical appointments during pregnancy are an essential part of providing care for both mother and baby.
  • Cancer screenings. Routine screenings such as Pap tests, mammograms and colonoscopies play an important role in the early detection of cancer.
  • Mental health services. If you’re being treated for a mental health condition, it’s important to continue regular appointments with your doctor or therapist.
  • Emergency care. Even during a pandemic, if you’re in need of emergency care, it’s essential to seek care promptly. Ignoring emergency medical symptoms, such as chest pain, can be deadly.


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