Excerpted from The New York Times by Sandeep Jauhar
As stay-at-home orders ease and cities reopen for business, many doctors and hospital administrators are calling for a quick return of health care to pre-pandemic levels. For months now, routine care has been postponed. Elective procedures — big moneymakers — were halted so that hospitals could divert resources to treating Covid-19 patients. Routine clinic visits were canceled or replaced by online sessions. This has resulted in grievous financial losses for hospitals and clinics. Medical practices have closed. Hospitals have been forced to furlough employees or cut pay.
Most patients, on the other hand, at least those with stable chronic conditions, seem to have done OK. In a recent survey, only one in 10 respondents said their health or a family member’s health had worsened as a result of delayed care. Eighty-six percent said their health had stayed about the same.
Admittedly, postponing health care had terrible health consequences for some patients with non-Covid-19 illnesses, such as those with newly diagnosed cancers that went untreated because outpatient visits were canceled, or because patients avoided going to the hospital out of fear of contracting the coronavirus. The spike in deaths in major cities like New York during the crisis almost certainly includes such patients.
Still, a vast majority of patients seem to have fared better than what most doctors expected. It will probably take years to understand why. Perhaps patients mitigated the harm of delayed care by adopting healthful behaviors, such as smoking less and exercising more. Perhaps the huge increases in stress were balanced out by other things, such as spending more time with loved ones.
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