Officials are not sure when the pandemic will be over and realize that medical ailments cannot be put on hold forever. Doctor visits were part of everyday life before COVID-19. Now, many doctors are being used in emergency departments and ICUs to help meet the current demand.

Although fewer doctors may be available, not receiving routine preventative care, including well child check-ups and annual physicals, increases the likelihood of health problems not being caught early, according to Linda Inmon, Extension associate-family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Many doctors are using telemedicine as a tool for assessing health care needs to reduce the spread of the virus, she said. Telemedicine is conducted either through telephone calls or video visits.

“Telemedicine enables patients to continue to receive medical services while maintaining social distances,” Inmon said. “However, there are limitations for preventative measures, such as colonoscopies, pap smears and mammograms for cancer screening.”

There is good news in all of this. Most insurance companies, including Medicare, are recognizing telemedicine as a visit and they are paying for it, Inmon said. Therefore, it is important to keep all doctor’s appointments by scheduling a telemedicine appointment to avoid exposure to COVID-19 by in office appointments.

“If you have a condition that requires a doctor’s office visit, however, do everything you can to avoid the risk of catching the virus,” Inmon said. “Remember to follow the safety precautions of staying at least 6 feet from others, wear a face mask, wash your hands with soap and water often, use hand sanitizer (60 percent alcohol) if water is not available and do not touch surfaces, shared items or your face.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.