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Tips to Help Virginians Get Back to Doctors During the Pandemic

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021   

RICHMOND, Va. - One major outcome of the pandemic has been a sharp decline in doctor's visits, which can lead to serious health consequences.

Dr. James Carney, UnitedHealthCare's chief medical officer for Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, said 25% of Americans don't have a relationship with a primary-care physician, which compounds the problem.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.6 million Virginians said they've delayed or avoided medical care during the COVID-19 crisis, along with 40% of all Americans. Carney said this increases the likelihood of illness and even death - from treatable health conditions.

"Routine screenings - like mammograms, colonoscopies, annual physicals and immunizations - are crucial for people to stay on top of their health," he said. "Many are coping with multiple chronic conditions, like diabetes, congestive heart failure, and delaying routine care management, unfortunately, can accelerate the severity of disease and illness."

He said this trend has been reversing in 2021, as more folks get vaccinated and are comfortable going to the doctor for routine care.

Carney stressed the importance of having a relationship with a primary-care physician who can detect problems early and provide preventive care. He said folks can compare reviews online to find the right doctor, and for anyone still anxious about in-person appointments, he recommended using telehealth for routine visits.

"Physicians in Virginia, in particular, are increasingly adopting this technology to see patients," he said. "We've seen a tenfold increase in use of virtual care visits since the emergence of COVID-19. Some people have reported that they see no difference in the quality of the visit compared with an in-person appointment."

About 56% of Americans say they're interested in using digital devices to access medical care, and 25% say they turn to online resources first to evaluate health issues, according to a UnitedHealthCare survey.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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