Avoiding routine care can result in missed opportunities

Published on April 12, 2021

Avoiding routine care can result in missed opportunities

Clinician meeting with patient

LMH Health has ten primary care clinics across Lawrence, Douglas and Leavenworth Counties to meet your needs.

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The light at the end of the long tunnel that is the COVID-19 pandemic gets closer and closer every day. As life begins to become more normal, it’s important to focus on things that may have been put off over the past year, such as routine check-ups, vaccinations and reducing stress.

A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June 2020 revealed that more than 30% of adults delayed routine medical care due to concerns about the COVID pandemic. Avoiding routine care can result in missed opportunities to manage chronic conditions, receiving routine vaccinations or early detection of new conditions.

Thomas Marcellino, MD

Thomas Marcellino, MD

Dr. Thomas Marcellino, a physician with Mount Oread Family Practice and Douglas County’s Public Health Officer, said that routine care can provide opportunities to find potential health issues before they become a problem.

“It’s important that everyone, from children to adults, visit their primary care provider each year for an annual check-up, and most insurance plans cover the cost. Patients who have pre-existing conditions or who have a family history with serious health issues may need to visit more frequently,” he said. “These routine screenings and checkups are important for maintaining good health.”

LMH Health has ten primary care clinics across Lawrence, Douglas and Leavenworth Counties to meet your needs. Visit lmh.org/primarycare to find a physician to help you stay healthy and well.

What can adults expect during an exam?

It’s important for your care team to know your personal and family medical history. They’ll also collect other basic health information, such as height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. You may also be asked to undergo lab tests, such as a blood draw or urinalysis.

“Having this information and these routine test results help your doctor by allowing us to see trends over time,” Marcellino said. “If something is not in the range we’d expect to see, that signals us that there may be more that we need to investigate.”

Men may undergo a prostate or testicular exam, while a woman’s exam may include a breast exam and pelvic exam. Your provider will also talk with you about recommended health screenings. These include mammogram and pap screenings for women and for men, prostate screening, including a PSA blood test. Other recommended screenings may include checking cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.

Routine vaccinations may also be addressed during an annual exam. It’s important to speak with your provider about the best time to obtain your next vaccination(s), as you won’t be able to receive the COVID vaccine within 14 days of receiving a planned vaccination. Find more vaccine information and recommended schedules at vaccines.gov.

If you’re a Medicare Part B beneficiary, you’re eligible to schedule an Annual Wellness Visit. Malwina Zastawna, Population Health manager, said the visit focuses on preventative health. The earlier something is caught, the better the chance to find a solution.

“When you come in for an annual wellness visit, you’ll be seen by a population health nurse who works closely with your doctor,” she said. “We’ll talk about your overall health, discuss your risk factors and share advice to help you stay healthy. We work as a team with your provider and their nurses.”

Regular visits are important for kids, too

Regular visits to the doctor empower parents to keep their children healthy. These essential exams start shortly after birth and allow the doctor to track your child’s growth and development. They also provide you with the opportunity to discuss any concerns you have about your child’s health.

Krista Whitney, MD

Krista Whitney, MD

“As a pediatrician, it’s my job to take care of the entire patient,” said Dr. Krista Whitney, a pediatrician at PANDA Pediatrics. “At an annual physical, often referred to as a well check, I get the chance to find an undiagnosed heart murmur, an unexpected abdominal mass and previously undetected hearing or vision concerns. It’s also a chance to identify mental health concerns, difficulties in school and socioeconomic barriers that affect a patient’s overall health.”

During the visit, the doctor will:

  • Take basic height and weight measurements to follow your child’s growth
  • Review developmental milestones in younger children
  • Conduct a mental health screening for older children
  • Conduct a physical exam
  • Discuss concerns about your child’s health

Well checks also help to ensure that your child is up-to-date with routine vaccinations. These vaccinations help prevent illnesses such as measles, whooping cough, tetanus and chicken pox. While not all well checks come with vaccines, some do depending on the patient’s age and what vaccinations they’ve had previously. Typical vaccine schedules can be found at vaccine.gov and on the CDC website.

“Staying up-to-date on vaccines is one of the best ways to prevent life-threatening illnesses. Vaccines are safe, effective and incredibly important in preventing the spread of disease,” Whitney said. “Vaccines also protect the community’s health. For the few who have a medical contraindication that prevent them from receiving vaccines, they rely on others around them to keep them safe by getting vaccinated.” 

Stress management

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress is a normal reaction to everyday pressures. It affects nearly every system of the body, influencing how people act and feel, and can become unhealthy when it upsets your ability to function daily. We’re equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when it becomes long-term – as it has for many over the past year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – stress can have serious consequences.

According to the APA’s 2020 Stress in America™ report, nearly 8 in 10 adults struggle to cope with the disruptions the pandemic has caused. Almost 20% of the adults surveyed say their mental health is worse than it was in the previous year.

“Pandemic-related stress, and stress in general, manifests itself in a number of different ways in adults,” said Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, a registered nurse with LMH Health Workplace Wellness. “Some common signs are physical reactions, including headaches and stomach problems; feelings of fear, anger, worry or frustration; worsening of chronic health problems or mental health conditions; weight gain and increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances.”

Children and teens are also being negatively affected by stress caused by the pandemic. 43 percent of teens (ages 13-17) said that the pandemic has increased the level of stress in their life over the past year.

“Children often react to stressful situations in ways that mirror the reactions of adults around them,” Anderson Sosinski said. “Some signs of stress in children and teens may manifest themselves in a variety of ways from behavioral to physical.”

Signs that your child may be experiencing stress include:

  • Behavioral changes, such as moodiness, aggression or clinginess
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Getting into trouble or refusing to go to school
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Possible use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Stress management tips

Anderson Sosinski has a number of tips to help both adults and children find some relief from increased stress levels.

“One of the most important and effective stress management things you can do is to take extra good care of yourself and exercise daily, if possible,” she said. “Take a walk, ride a bike, play with your kids outside or do some stretching and yoga.”

Other helpful tricks include:

  • Eating healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Limiting snacking, including sugary, salty or high-fat snacks
  • Focusing on deep breathing or meditation
  • Establishing a regular bedtime routine and sticking to it
  • Avoiding using excessive alcohol, tobacco or other substances

Reaching out and socially interacting with others can also be a boon for mental health. As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, some community organizations are beginning to hold socially distanced meetings in-person.

“If you feel like stress, anxiety or depression are overwhelming or interfering with your life, seek help from your healthcare provider or a mental health professional,” Anderson Sosinski said. “There’s support available, even in these isolating times. You are not alone.”

Additional resources

One resource available to Douglas County residents is myStrength. This free, confidential app is available 24/7 and offers a variety of programs including mindfulness, meditation, improving sleep, reducing stress, controlling anxiety and coping with COVID-19. Click here for more information about myStrength. 

LMH Health Workplace Wellness is also launching a new program for the community to support health and wellness. Participants will have access to health screenings, online tools, wellness challenges and a health and wellness coach for support. For more information, call 785-505-3114 and choose option six or email wellnesscoaching@lmh.org.

Autumn BishopStory by Autumn Bishop

Autumn is the marketing manager and content strategist at LMH Health.