There's been a dangerous decline in routine medical and emergency room visits in America because people are afraid of contracting the coronavirus. In response, several healthcare organizations have put together an advertising campaign to allay people's fears and encourage them to return to their medical providers.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the coalition includes insurer Humana, pharmacy giant Walgreens Boost Alliance Inc., diagnostic company Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings, pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corp., and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The ad encourages people to "stop medical distancing."
The decline in doctor visits has resulted in a reduced demand for some drugs and diagnostic tests, said the Journal, and has also hurt physicians financially. To offset the fear, many doctors are offering telehealth services and have introduced safety protocols such as eliminating shared waiting rooms and enhancing cleaning and sanitation practices. Insurers have also waived copays for some visits to healthcare providers.
Some families have even delayed their children's vaccines, according to another Journal article. Others have lost their insurance coverage because of layoffs and have delayed medical visits for financial reasons.
Across the country, ER volumes dropped 40% to 50% during the pandemic, Dr. William Jaquis, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told NPR.
"I haven't seen anything like it, ever," he said. "We anticipated, actually, higher volumes."
According to the Detroit Free Press, this resulted in heart attack and stroke victims dying at home. Experts warned that routine screenings for cancer have declined, and this can lead to worse outcomes in the future as small, treatable, tumors go undetected.
A recent survey showed that 56% of clinicians said the healthcare of their patients who did not get proper healthcare in recent months worsened, the Journal reported.
The new "stop medical distancing" ad campaign mirrors that of other organizations. The American Heart Association (AHA) launched its own campaign saying "don't die of doubt," urging Americans to call 911 if they suspect they are having a heart attack or stroke.
"When an emergency strikes, hospitals are still the safest place — even during a pandemic," says the AHA.
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