While hospitals prepare for more patients due to coronavirus, family doctors say they are seeing fewer patients, which could mean patients with chronic illnesses are missing treatment for their conditions.
"Most of our visits are down substantially," said Dr. Jim Dearing, a Synergy Health family practitioner.
Patients with chronic diseases may think they are protecting themselves by avoiding the doctor's office, but Dearing said they may be harming their health and making themselves more susceptible to COVID-19 complications.
"Any time your body is not working properly to start with and you’ve been exposed to something that hits your immune system, which is already not functioning at its best, you double the hit that you’re likely to take," Dearing said.
Jim Dearing said he's particularly concerned with potentially fatal coronavirus outcomes for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He believes patients who are optimally managing their diseases would make them stronger.
"Everyone takes the easy way out, and this is no time for that to take place," Dearing said.
Many family doctors can conduct most appointments through telehealth. Dearing said his patients with pre-existing generally have the tools to check their vital signs at home, such as thermometers, glucose testers, and blood pressure cuffs. Doctors can use those readings to adjust treatment plans.
"You don’t have to be living it alone," Dr. Dearing said. "We can do something about it. Give us a chance."