British Columbians neglecting doctor visits in pandemic

Physicians create directory to ease access to health checks

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With British Columbians not checking in regularly with their doctors during the pandemic, the province’s physicians have created an online directory to ease access to physicians and nurse practitioners.

And, said the Doctors of BC (DBC) professional group, people are not keeping on top of medical care, a situation that could worsen dealing with chronic conditions. The group has found patients either aren’t sure whether their doctor is available or how they should best connect in the event they’ll receive care in person or by telephone or through telehealth options.

DBC president Dr. Matthew Chow said measurements of how many people see doctors, specialist referrals or hospital visits, indicate an “alarming” drop.

He said consistently engaging with doctors can help avoid bad outcomes.

“Chronic conditions are going untreated,” he said. “People are arriving at emergency with worse conditions that could have been caught.”

“We really want to prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem.”

The Pathways Medical Care Directory lists a search function finding your doctor or a new one by name of locale, access to flu shots and also to COVID-19 testing. The template is user friendly.

The system also lists new virtual care clinics for people without family doctors.

It was created to provide up-to-date information on how doctors provide virtual and in-person care, how patients can make appointments and show services a doctor provides.

Chow said it’s vital people continue to see their doctors – especially if they have long-term or chronic conditions.

“It’s important you see your family doctor because they know you best and understand your medical history and needs,” he said, noting the situation is more important for seniors living at home, those with disabilities or people considering themselves to be at high-risk.

When it comes to patients needing prescriptions or to have lab work or things such as blood pressure tests done, Chow said mechanisms are in place for doctors’ orders to reach the appropriate places for patients to go for those tests.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement to Glacier Media that the government recognizes some patients may currently be unsure how to connect with their family physician or nurse practitioner.

The statement said Pathways provides patients with useful information about accessing their primary care provider.

Pathways is a non-profit organization supported by Doctors of BC and the British Columbia Ministry of Health.

While many doctors are already in the system, the list is not yet complete. Chow said it is a work in progress.

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo