Have you delayed access to health services during the pandemic?

The past few years have been difficult, with many people putting access to health services on hold as they cope with life during a global pandemic. Unfortunatelyy, previous virus outbreaks, such as SARS, have shown us that waiting too long for routine care can lead to long-term complications.

If you postponed the care and testing you needed during the pandemicmidvs, it’s time to talk to your suppliers about how you can get back on track. Here are six healthcare services to prioritize:

1. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
As the world reeled in response to the pandemic, scientists raced to develop COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, we have several safe and effective vaccines that can protect us against death or serious illness from COVID-19. The Commonwealth Fund estimates that these vaccines have prevented an additional 1.1 million deaths and more than 10 million hospitalizations in the United States alone. Most health experts agree that the number one thing you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe is to get COVID-19 shots and boosters as recommended.


2. Routine vaccinations
One of the consequences of postponing regular visits to health care providers during the pandemic is that many people have not received regular vaccines. This trend has medical professionals worried about a possible increase in preventable diseases, such as measles and shingles. If you or your family members have postponed routine vaccinations, talk to your providers about getting vaccinated now.

3. Non-COVID medical emergencies
Some people avoided ER during the pandemic even when they had troubling symptoms. This worries many medical professionals who know heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions haven’t hit the pause button because of the pandemic. If you or a loved one has emergency symptoms such as difficulty breathing, prolonged loss of consciousness, chest pain and heaviness, or severe bleeding, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately the closest.

4. Chronic conditions
People with chronic conditions were and continue to be at higher risk for COVID-19, so it’s understandable that fear of exposure kept them from receiving their routine care. However, it is still important to take steps to manage chronic conditions. If you haven’t been to your provider, make an appointment as soon as possible. Medical practices have taken extra precautions to ensure the safety of their patients. If you’re still worried, you may be able to schedule a telehealth visit and speak with your provider over the phone or via video visits.

5. Annual medical exams and routine screenings
Getting an annual checkup is another example of missed appointments, especially for those who had no symptoms. Annual check-ups are essential even when you are feeling well. During these visits, your provider checks your general health and catches problems before they become serious health issues. If you missed your annual exams, schedule one now. If you’re still uncomfortable with COVID-19, call your primary care provider’s (PCP) office and share your concerns. Your PCP is someone you can trust to help keep you healthy and safe. They can recommend a telehealth visit and can tell you what screening tests you might need.


6. Mental health screening and counseling
Dealing with the pandemic has shaken us all. Think about some of the things many of us have faced. Loss of a loved one due to COVID. Fears to keep our family safe during COVID. Work or learn at home. Isolation and social distancing. It’s no wonder so many of us feel anxious, depressed or irritable. If you feel this way, you are not alone. And the good news is that help is available. Talk to your PCP for help or call your insurance company to find out what services are available to you. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. For immediate assistance, dial 911.

The bottom line:
The pandemic is not behind us. In fact, some health experts say it may never be completely eliminated. It’s up to all of us to take steps to protect ourselves from COVID-19 and to get the ongoing health care services we need to be as healthy as possible.

Tufts Health Plan is one of the few health plans in Massachusetts to offer lifetime coverage, regardless of age or circumstance. This coverage includes Medicaid/subsidized, commercial, and Medicare health plans. To learn more, visit tuftshealthplan.com.