Sanford chief medical officer: Don’t put your health on hold

Routine immunizations and screenings are still vital and safe to come in for

Allison Suttle faces Courtney Collen during an interview about health care

As the coronavirus conversation shifts to reopening society, we are looking ahead to what the “new normal” will look like. With that, there’s a concern about the ripple effect this pandemic could have on people’s overall health.

That has medical leaders emphasizing an important message, including Sanford Health Chief Medical Officer Allison Suttle, M.D., during a Facebook Live Q&A on May 1.

Watch: Dr. Allison Suttle’s Q&A on continuing care

“We were all worried about the health system being overwhelmed by COVID,” Dr. Suttle said. “We’ve flattened the curve, so now we have an amount of COVID we can manage.”

And now, she said, it’s time to check in with our own health.

Significant drop in vaccinations, mammography

This April, Sanford Health administered 50% fewer vaccinations than in April 2019.

“Think about childhood vaccinations for measles. If those don’t get caught up, we could have a measles outbreak this fall in addition to influenza and other things. Those immunizations are critical,” Dr. Suttle explained.

Mammography, a screening test for breast cancer, has seen a 57% decrease.

“There are cancers out there that aren’t getting diagnosed. If we delay that diagnosis, or wait three to four months and then go in for the mammogram, the cancer could be more advanced. When it’s more advanced, it’s harder to treat. Those are preventable deaths,” Suttle said.

When we delay care, she says, oftentimes the situation is quite a bit worse.

To complicate matters, Dr. Suttle explains, the cost of caring for a patient will likely increase if care is delayed and health conditions worsen, requiring more complex treatment.

“Our health care can’t be held hostage to COVID. We have got to continue taking care of ourselves,” Dr. Suttle said.

Clinics are safe to enter

Health care locations have put a number of measures in place to ensure the safety of patients and employees. Additional measures include increased cleaning practices, Plexiglas, patient screening upon arrival and waiting rooms adjusted for appropriate spacing. All staff in clinical settings are wearing a mask.

The vast majority of COVID testing is taking place in a drive-thru setting, so that eliminates the likelihood of symptomatic patients visiting a clinic.

Surge in telemedicine

Sanford Health is conducting thousands of video visits every day, significantly higher than before this pandemic. Patient and provider feedback has been positive.

Because physicians love it and patients love it, Dr. Suttle said, video visits are here to stay.

If you have questions about visiting your clinic or about scheduling for an upcoming appointment, contact your clinic or provider directly.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Flu, Wellness

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