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Heart conditions worsened due to skipping appointments during pandemic

Bridging the Great Health Divide
Medical professionals say that people need to continue routine checkups during the Coronavirus...
Medical professionals say that people need to continue routine checkups during the Coronavirus pandemic, or risk other health issues.(Ochsner)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 6:46 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Doctors say routine checkups are critical to fight off serious medical conditions.

But during the pandemic, some people didn’t see their doctors as often as they should have.

Hospitals reported a decline in some patients during the start of the pandemic when the stay at home orders were first issued. Routine surgeries were sometimes postponed.

“Physicians and hospitals were discouraging patients from coming to see us because it was safer for them to stay at home,” said Dr. Achal Sahai, an interventional cardiologist with Ochsner Health System.

Also, some patients opted not to see their doctors because they feared they might catch the virus, putting them at risk for more serious illness. And for people with heart disease not receiving adequate medical care could lead to congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure is a heart dysfunction that occurs when the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should.

“When that pump or that heart is not functioning completely appropriately, fluid will back up in that system,” said Sahai.

He said it’s dangerous for patients with heart conditions to skip doctor’s visits. Heart disease is among the top killers in Louisiana according to the CDC.

“The chronic disease process requires evaluation by physicians or practitioners and management of medicines,” he said. “An evaluation for status and that is lost when patients are not interacting with their physicians.”

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To combat the low number during the start of the pandemic, Ochsner launched Telemedicine-a virtual office visit to help keep patients on track including with their medications and daily habits to keep chronic conditions like heart disease under control.

“We were very proactive in using that platform and that continues to be a way in which we could interact with patients who are maybe uncomfortable still because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Sahai.

Sahai says the number of patients returning to their doctors is up now that more people are vaccinated and feel more comfortable returning to the doctor’s office.

“Certainly, in New Orleans and the Greater Louisiana area, Ochsner played a prominent role in education as well as dispensing those vaccines,” he said. “And that probably was the biggest role in making our community a safer place to be.”

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