While it's very important for everyone to continue with social distancing, there's also a lot of “medical distancing” going on. In short, people are distancing themselves from doctor visits, checkups, and procedures they actually need, because they're trying to stay away from medical facilities where they feel their risk of catching COVID-19 might be higher.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, the level of preventive care in the United States has plummeted. Just in April, for example, there were almost no colonoscopies, and vaccinations were down a staggering 60 percent. While that's a problem, it's not the biggest problem. The largest concern for many health care providers is that they don't see any signs that this missed health care will be made up in the future. In other words, people skipped it and they're just going to keep skipping it.
Why? Primarily because they don't feel safe going to medical facilities.
The CDC confirms that this is an issue, stating that nearly 41 percent of adults have skipped out on needed or preventive healthcare since COVID-19 became the focus of the news and much of the healthcare community. Delayed care will have a ripple effect on employee health. Getting employees back to health and wellness is the objective, and existing health issues for many employees have gotten worse since the pandemic.
Cancer diagnoses have seen a sharp decline, but it's not because cancer has gone away. It's because people aren't going to the doctor so they aren't being diagnosed. But putting off the diagnosis also means putting off the treatment. That could mean a long road back to health for some employees, and an inability to get back to health at all for others.
That's not to mention the mental health costs of avoiding care, and the spike in the risk of depression that comes with a societal climate of fear and uncertainty.
At a time when these employees need the most care, they're distancing themselves from their doctors and other health care professionals who could give them the medications and treatments they need to become healthier. So, that begs the question of what can be done about the issue.
You want to keep your employees healthy, and that's less likely to be the outcome if they don't get proper preventive care or address issues they're having. While you can't force your employees to go to the doctor (nor should you try), there are ways you can encourage them to work toward wellness even during these troubling and unprecedented times.
How can you help? Consider:
- Bringing in an expert to help address unresolved health issues.
- Encouraging telemedicine visits for physical and mental health.
- Cutting costs for employees to receive preventive healthcare.
- Setting up a virtual wellness visit for coaching, questions, and more.
- Offering a virtual presentation that addresses wellness education.
There is a lot your company can do to help its employees be healthier, even during COVID-19 and beyond. Since life probably won't go back to “normal” anytime soon, adapting to the new normal and working within its boundaries is the way to move forward. While that may be difficult for some employees, especially those who are more fearful or anxious about the pandemic and the risk of disease contraction, having an employer who supports them can help improve their journey back to health and wellness.
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Scott Foster is President of Wellco, based in Michigan. Scott is a frequently-invited expert and speaker regarding leadership, engagement and high-value health & wellness. Wellco provides award-winning solutions to measurably improve health engagement and outcomes.
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