ACCESS Celebrates National Health Center Week

 

 

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that our health and the health of our loved ones is the most important thing in life. When we have good health, everything from spending time with family and friends to simply taking a walk around the neighborhood, is possible.

 

As a community health care provider working in communities that experience disproportionately higher rates of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, the delay in routine health care and screenings caused by COVID-19 has and will continue to have serious implications on my patients’ health outcomes and quality of life. We know that early detection means early treatment, but the disruption of the pandemic for more than two years has resulted in a backlog of care, discontinued treatments, and advanced diagnoses that require more aggressive forms of intervention.

 

Today, we are seeing cancer screening rates rebound but they are still lower than expected and below the baseline of pre-COVID years. It is our responsibility as providers to educate patients about early detection through annual health screenings and encourage them to come see us with any concerns or changes in their health.

 

This was the case for my patient Andrea, who has been under my care over ten years. She came to me in 2019 after dealing with inflamed tonsils and throat problems. After ruling out a bacterial infection, we sent her in for a biopsy, which resulted in a lymphoma diagnosis.

“It is difficult when a patient gets a bad diagnosis, but it is especially difficult when you’re navigating that diagnosis during a pandemic.”

The value of primary care, especially in community health care settings, is the connections we build with our patients and their families over the years. The relationship is built on trust and, when difficult situations arise, a patient and their family can have confidence knowing that they will be supported by their care team. Whether it’s help scheduling appointment, enrolling and navigating health benefits, or getting complicated medical diagnoses explained to them, each member of the care team plays an important role in a patient’s treatment plan.

 

Critical to Andrea’s successful treatment was creating an open access plan where she could come in as needed, without any barriers. The meaning of a medical home is to be there for the patient whenever the patient needs support. It is not limited to once a year or every three months, it's whenever they need something. That makes a huge difference.

 

As we celebrate National Health Center Week, it is the perfect time to talk about the importance of prioritizing your health and staying connected to your medical home.  As providers, we need to build on the momentum of health being top of mind for individuals during this pandemic and encourage our patients to come back for their routine and preventive health care appointments. It is my hope that we can motivate individuals to become more engaged in their health so that any change can be monitored, and any illness can be detected and treated early.

 

As Andrea’s son Sebastian says, ‘it’s better to be safe, than sorry.'