COVID-19 has put the world on pause. Business travel, summer vacations, home improvement projects – much of it is on hold. For many, seeing your doctor or other health care practitioner has taken a back seat to hunkering down and trying to stay well.

The beach weekend and new kitchen can wait. Your health concerns cannot.

There seem to be four main reasons people are ignoring their health worries and canceling or postponing doctors’ appointments – or not making them in the first place. Let’s debunk them:

  1. Worries about COVID-19 safety. “Screening and cleaning” is Novant Health’s mantra now. Doctors’ offices look completely different from they did before COVID-19. Chairs are spaced apart in the waiting room to allow for social distancing.

And if it’s feasible for your health care provider to “see” you via a phone or video visit, that’s the first thing you’ll be offered. Health care workers are on the front lines of this fight, and they want to minimize their contact with others as much as possible. A no-contact visit keeps you and them safe.

  1. Worries that emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics are filled with COVID-19 patients. They’re not. Concern that an ER waiting room is going to be crowded with COVID-19 patients is understandable – but inaccurate. As we reported in early May, “Novant Health’s ERs have been transformed for the age of COVID-19.” In many of them, there are separate waiting areas for COVID-19 patients and separate treatment rooms.   

Visitors are no longer allowed in the ER – not even in the waiting room. Only patients waiting to be seen can come in, and they get their temperature checked before walking in and must be wearing a mask. (A mask is provided for them if they don’t have one.) Ambulances are being thoroughly sanitized between patients. Every doorknob – on the exterior of the building as well as on interior doors – is getting sanitized throughout the day.

Novant Health’s housekeeping staff – the environmental services team, as we call them – are health care heroes. Rayon Muir, a nurse at Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, said in April, “Everything they do is part of infection control. They’re a vital part of the operation. They have a big impact on patient care.”

Doctors have seen an alarming number of patients who delayed care for serious medical conditions over COVID-19 fears. Some of those patients are having longer hospital stays and worse outcomes. Delaying treatment may lead to a worsening condition.

  1. Worries about cost. That’s another understandable concern. Accessing and paying for health care is confusing, even with the most robust of health insurance plans. Unlike anything else you pay for – from a car to college tuition – with health care, you sometimes don’t know in advance what your out-of-pocket costs will be. Your insurance plan, deductible, copay and annual income (if you don't have insurance coverage) all factor into the fee. It's always going to be complicated as long as there are deductibles and insurance plans involved.

But Novant Health is going the extra mile to help make this deterrent to getting care less onerous. Our financial navigators have one job: to help you do what previously seemed impossible. And that’s estimate the cost of your care for a procedure or hospital stay.

In North and South Carolina, call 336-277-7299 (or toll-free 1-888-277-3901), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. In Virginia, call 703-369-8020, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Voicemail is available for after-hours or weekend calls.

No one should delay getting medical attention for fear of not being able to pay for it. Whether or not you have insurance, let our financial navigators help you figure out costs. They’re also ready to help get you with a payment plan, if necessary.

They are well-versed in  screening uninsured patients for eligibility in state and federal programs, such as Medicaid. They understand the eligibility requirements and can help navigate patients through the confusing application process.They can also help with charity applications for patients who have serious medical needs and limited or no health coverage for their urgent care.

  1. Worries about COVID-19 swabs. Some patients have put off important procedures because they didn’t want have the nasopharyngeal swab, which involves using a long, thin swab inside the nose to collect test material.

The good news is that in some cases, a much shallower swab, called a nasal swab, is used. There are no guarantees which swab will be used at any patient’s test. But regardless, it’s not worth putting off care you need to avoid a few seconds of discomfort.

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