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OPINION: The doctor will see you now; don’t delay important medical care

(L to R): Dr. Dale Toney, Dr. Jeff Reynolds and Ben Chandler

By Dr. Dale Toney, Dr. Jeff Reynolds and Ben Chandler

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentuckians flattened the curve by staying home as much as possible. While that action was necessary and saved lives, it also led to a large number of people putting off important medical care. Now that it can be done safely, it’s time we all return to the preventive medical care that will keep us healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently estimated that 41 percent of people delayed or avoided seeking care this spring and summer because of COVID-19 concerns. That’s of greater concern here in Kentucky as our population suffers from an above-national-average number of chronic and acute health conditions that require regular check-ups or screenings. The Commonwealth has a higher incidence rate of lung cancer than anywhere else in the nation. Influenza and pneumonia cause 25 percent more deaths in Kentucky than in other parts of the country. Almost 15 percent of Kentucky adults suffer from diabetes, and the state’s overall overdose death rate is also nearly twice the national average. With these and other ongoing health conditions, delaying or forgoing screenings and routine check-ups can have dire consequences.

That’s why The Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky have partnered to encourage Kentuckians to resume the important care they need to stay healthy through the “Raise Your Guard, KY” campaign. While much about COVID-19 remains unknown, we do know that healthy patients recover more quickly and have lower rates of complications. And staying healthy starts with visiting your physician to discuss and receive the care you need.

Physician offices and hospitals are open and have taken a number of measures to assure a safe environment for treating and screening patients. These actions include requiring face masks, regularly sanitizing surfaces, and staggering patient arrival times. Telehealth is also an option for many routine appointments and allows you to visit with your physician from the comfort and safety of your home. Telehealth has also never been easier or more convenient, thanks to the coordinated efforts of Kentucky’s health care providers and insurance carriers.

As schools and businesses reopen, it’s also important to make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccines. Vaccines are safe and protect against dozens of life-threatening diseases, which helps keep your immune system strong. They’re also not just for kids: adults may need vaccines based on age, health conditions, job, lifestyle, or travel habits, in addition to a yearly flu shot.

Now is the time to Raise Your Guard, Kentucky, and resume regular visits with your physician. With the threat of COVID-19 remaining part of our lives, taking simple steps to protect yourself and your family, like seeking care for chronic conditions and updating your vaccinations, is more important than ever.

Dr. Dale Toney is president of the Kentucky Medical Association; Dr. Jeff Reynolds is medical director of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky; Ben Chandler is president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.