posted by Renee’ Buckingham, President, Partners in Primary Care
on February 23, 2021
A major concern at the start of the pandemic was that seniors would delay preventative care and fall behind on routine health maintenance. With everything from reductions in public transportation to misgivings about leaving their homes, as well as unfamiliarity with using certain technologies, seniors were among those most affected when it has come to seeing a doctor, yet least able to afford missing out on regular visits.
While, for some, avoiding the doctor has been the case, Partners in Primary Care has seen encouraging signs that seniors are continuing to receive regular care, whether in person, virtual or—in some cases— curbside.
In fact, seniors made more visits to their primary care doctor in 2020 than 2019, with 87% of Partners in Primary Care patients making one or more visits to their local center compared to 75% in 2019. Even more encouraging, 94% of at-risk patients had a comprehensive wellness visit in 2020, up from 2019. And, for those patients unable or unwilling to make in-person visits, we conducted 9,453 virtual visits and 29,383 telephonic visits over the course of the year, a practice we hadn’t utilized prior to the pandemic.
The isolation spurred by the pandemic, however, has been devastating for seniors. According to NPR, “with the pandemic, another kind of safety net is disintegrating—the kind created by the daily social interactions seniors might typically have with a waiter at a coffee shop or a teller at a bank.” Consequently, seniors’ visits with their primary care doctor may be the only interactions they have for days on end.
This is why it’s essential that health care practitioners go beyond assessing seniors’ medical status to addressing their mental health and social service needs as well. This is best achieved through a team approach to care, whereby a physician works closely with mental health specialists and social workers to ensure that all the patient’s requirements are identified and addressed.
Often times, seniors most in need of these services live in underserved areas, which is why Partners just announced that it will be expanding its reach by opening up to 20 more centers in 2021 in primarily underserved areas throughout the country, including Atlanta, Las Vegas, Houston and throughout Louisiana.
Does this patient have enough to eat? Can they cover the cost of their medication? Have they been paying their bills? These are the types of questions that need to be part of the conversation during a routine visit, ensuring that life at home is conducive to maintaining health and a healthy outlook.
It’s heartening to see seniors keeping up with their regular care despite the many obstacles they’ve endured over the last year. With so many seniors willing to do their part, it’s incumbent on practitioners and health insurance providers to ensure not only that the resources are in place to meet their needs, but also a helping hand.