Dr. Dongwook Kristen, a physician at Dr. Van Tran Family Practice at 1919 N Loop W #218, said in-person visits are picking up at their medical office.
“(They) are coming in for annual visits and well-women exams,” Kristen said. “Also those who missed scheduled blood work are starting up again.”
Kristen said patients have asked questions beforehand about security precautions the office had in place. Aside from the mandatory masks and shields, they have reorganized their waiting room to maximize social distancing in addition to other measures.
From anecdotal accounts, the uptick in healthcare visits comes from the increasing comfort people have with safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 as well as the reality that some appointments cannot wait until the pandemic abates. The Harris County Public Health department said the testing positivity rate in the county is at 11 percent.
A late June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation said about half of adults polled (52 percent) say they or another family member in their household skipped or postponed some type of medical or dental care because of the coronavirus pandemic, including 42 percent who personally skipped or postponed care. Dental care was the most likely to be skipped or postponed, followed by regular check-ups or physical exams.
Dr. Deepti Mishra, vice president of medical operations with Memorial Hermann Medical Group, said earlier this month that the hospital system is encouraging patients to come in for routine check-ups since they have safety measures in place to ensure social distancing.
“Pediatric patients need to stay on track with routine vaccinations and we want to ensure that we are doing routine mammograms (and) colonoscopies,” Mishra said. “The problem with waiting on routine screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies is that you may delay diagnosis and find cancer at a more advanced stage. It’s much better to find these conditions early to begin immediate treatment.”
At Dentistry of the Oaks, 1717 W. 34th St. #450, Dr. Katie Stuchlik said the office saw a “wave of patients” after reopening from their shutdown because people needed to see a dentist after six weeks.
“This month, we’ve seen a slowdown compared to last August, presumably as case numbers heightened,” she said.
Stuchlik said the majority of those who do come in are “completely comfortable” with their high level of personal protective equipment and office precautions.
“Ninety percent of the cancellations are due to patients postponing routine cleanings due to not feeling comfortable,” she said.
At Legacy Community Health, a full-service network of community health clinics offering primary and specialty care in the Texas Gulf Coast region with 35 locations across Houston, Baytown, Deer Park and Beaumont, there has been a noticeable upward trend this summer in well-child appointments and on-time vaccinations for children.
That is a good thing because, according to a Legacy news release, there was a 50 percent decrease in these appointments in May and a nearly 90 percent decrease in April. June, however, showed a 9 percent increase in the total number of well-child appointments to the same time last year, and July had only a 13 percent decrease for children over 3 years old.
Dr. Tamisha Jones, medical director and pediatrician at Legacy Health, said its quick ramp-up with tele-health appointments in March gave parents confidence to come in this summer.
“It really did help people,” Jones said. “The (virtual) appointments were with their Legacy health care providers and it allayed fears. They could peek back into the clinics.”
Parents got outreach calls on their children’s birthdays to check in and talk about needed appointments.
Dr. Amar Trivedi, medical director and dentist with Legacy, said the clinics collaborated well along service lines, to maximize the services that could be offered with an in-person visit.
Trivedi said that when they talked to parents and patients, staff could explain the protocols that were in place. Because of CDC guidelines for dental offices, there is a longer time in between appointments during the day to allow for extra cleaning.
Jones said they are waiting to see what will happen with in-person school. She said August is generally a busy time with older children who need physicals for sports or mandatory vaccinations.
“We haven’t seen that push (yet) with school-age kids,” she said.