The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been an extremely testing time for us all.

The limitations that have been put in place to keep us safe has resulted in significant social and economic impacts, which have affected each of us differently.

When we entered the great unknown of COVID-19 restrictions, healthcare impacts were inevitable, particularly around people continuing to access medical services.

To help curb the virus and provide support to frontline COVID-19 hospital teams, restrictions on surgical procedures were put in place.

This meant that surgery would only go ahead if a patient was at serious risk of complications or even death if the procedure did not proceed.

As a result, procedures, particularly screening for illnesses like diabetes and cancer, were put on hold.

People also avoided meeting their other healthcare needs in a bid to isolate themselves from the risk of COVID-19.

This meant that people avoided seeing their doctor, nurse, pharmacist, allied health professional and dentist for both routine and emergency care.

Astute Simplicity Health endeavoured to reduce these impacts with the introduction of telehealth consultations for a range of services.

This helped our members receive care at the time they needed it in the areas of dietetics, speech therapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, exercise physiology, clinical psychology, counselling and physiotherapy.

Where Astute Simplicity Health saw the most benefit was in the mental health space.

Both hospital and allied health providers (counsellors and clinical psychologists) were able to adapt their care delivery to ensure there was continuity of care for members.

Members who felt vulnerable leaving their premises for a mental health consultation could also access support from the safety of their own home.

Unfortunately, whether due to access or safety concerns, 52 per cent of Australians avoided accessing and using their healthcare during COVID-191.

According to information published by Medicines Australia, data revealed that “in April diabetes testing rates fell 54 per cent compared to the weekly average in February 2020.  Cervical cancer screening rates fell by 67 per cent, tests for prostate cancer reduced by 56 per cent, and other cancer related tests dropped by as much as 60 per cent.”

The Australian Patient’s Association, as part of the Continuity of Care Collaboration, has launched a campaign called #dontwaitmate aimed at helping people, patients and carers feel safe to access their required health professional to ensure that we do not put off seeing a healthcare professional due to COVID-19.

This is extremely important for those people with complex health needs or chronic disease.

Required healthcare can be accessed in many ways including via telehealth, e-prescribing of medications, home delivery of medications and if you need to see your healthcare professional face to face, being assured that the best infection control efforts have been put in place to keep you, and your healthcare provider safe.

If you would like further information on #dontwaitmate or how to safely access your healthcare provider, visit https://continuityofcare.org/.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

1 https://continuityofcare.org/

 

Luke Cameron, Head of Clinical Services – St.LukesHealth

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