Are you risking your health? Aussies with chronic illnesses skipping GP visits

May 21, 2020
The new data showed a 10 per cent drop in GP visits for chronic illness management in March. Source: Getty.

Alarming new data shows tens of thousands of Australians living with a chronic illness are putting themselves at risk by missing important medical check-ups because of fear they’ll get the coronavirus.

The new data from the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS), obtained by the Heart Foundation, shows a 10 per cent drop in GP visits for chronic illness management in March 2020, equating to 96,000 fewer visits compared to the same time last year. The MBS data also showed an increase in shorter GP visits of less than 20 minutes, which the Heart Foundation says is likely due to increased flu vaccinations.

“These are potentially life-saving check-ups, tests and monitoring that people are missing out on,” the Heart Foundation’s Chief Medical Adviser, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings, said. “We know that nearly one in two Australians live with one or more chronic conditions and more than four million of these people live with cardiovascular disease.”

He added the drop in cholesterol tests were particularly concerning as cholesterol needs to be routinely measured. “There are rarely any signs or symptoms attributed to changes in cholesterol levels, yet left undetected and untreated, these changes can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

Professor Jennings went on to say many Australians living with heart disease are worried about their risk of Covid-19 complications, especially as restrictions ease across the country, but stressed keeping up with your regular medical check-ups is super important.

“Our message is very clear — it is vital that you continue to monitor your heart health and maintain your regular medical care, and there are options for you to do this safely via telehealth or in person,” he said. “What we don’t want to see is a stalling of the progress we have made in Australia in reducing preventable deaths caused by chronic diseases.”

Dr Harry Nespolon, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), offered a similar point, saying the new data was concerning and urged Aussies not to put off important medical appointments and tests.

“It’s never been easier to access your GP – with consultations now available by telephone or videoconferencing, as well as in person,” Dr Nespolon said. “For most people, a phone or video consultation with their GP will be suitable, but for those patients who still need to see their GP in person, we’re reminding them that it is safe to do so given the infection control processes in place.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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