Philadelphia-area hospitals and doctors are concerned about an unforeseen, and unhealthy, byproduct of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic: "medical distancing," the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.
Medical distancing refers to patients avoiding or delaying seeking medical help for conditions that previously would have had them going to a physician's office or emergency room.
Health systems throughout the region say for weeks they were experiencing notable dips in patient volumes not related to the coronavirus. They are now starting to see a rise in non-Covid-19 patients showing up in emergency departments because they delayed seeking care.
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“This trend appears to be widespread," said Dr. Reginald Blaber, chief clinical officer at Virtua Health in South Jersey. "We worked so hard to get people to stay socially distanced that we have created a perception that it is not only unsafe to go out, but it's unsafe to go to a physician's office or a hospital."
Blaber said once the health system saw Covid-19 cases were starting to accelerate in South Jersey, Virtua did its best to clear patients out of its hospitals and conserve personal protective equipment.
"It's almost like we were sending a message saying don't come to the hospital," he said. "We can understand that people may be avoiding health care settings and services for fear of exposure to the coronavirus, but delaying medical care can have considerable, lasting consequences. … We are just hoping this doesn't result in avoidable deaths or avoidable morbidities."