By Robert L. Moore, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer
“The only way you can stay on top is to remember to touch bottom and get back to basics.”
-Shane Black (Director, Screenwriter, Actor)
The COVID pandemic has had a number of ripple effects on the health of your patients, beyond the consequences of infection and stress-induced exacerbation of mental health status. Many clinical quality metrics saw plummeting performances in the past two years. For example, the proportion of those with a diagnosis of hypertension whose blood pressure is controlled dropped by over 10%. A major driver is decreased in-office visits where blood pressure is checked, with a relatively small proportion of patients using home BP monitors to follow their own blood pressure. Drops in well-child visits, breast, and cervical cancer screening are other examples.
The summer wave of the delta variant of COVID-19 led to increased infection rates, staffing disruptions, and new vaccination recommendations. It is becoming clear that COVID is so infectious and the level of protection from infection conferred by the initial vaccination series and prior infection is transient, so it will not be disappearing but rather become an endemic disease for the foreseeable future.
With this in mind, it is a good time to remind ourselves of other health issues facing the patients we serve, issues that were often deferred by patients and clinicians in the midst of the waves of pandemic cases. They include core preventive activities, like screening for breast and cervical cancer, use of nicotine products, and misuse of alcohol and other drugs. They include control of chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and COPD.
In the next couple of months, we encourage you to pause, take a breath, and start to think about how you will re-engage your organization with these important core preventive and chronic disease activities!