Whether she’s walking her dog, Cola, or doing water aerobics at the Duke Health & Fitness Center, Wanda Amons enjoys staying active. But with type 2 diabetes and arthritis in her left knee, Amons, 64, knows that to maintain that lifestyle, she must stay vigilant.
So last fall, Amons decided to keep the long-scheduled appointment for her annual medical physical. While the pandemic forced her to work remotely and limited trips away from home, the value of seeing her doctor outweighed any risk of venturing out.
“It was important to continue with my visits so I know where I stand with my health,” said Amons, a Duke Children’s Hospital staff assistant who has worked at Duke for 12 years.
Amons’ situation is common during the pandemic as people balance concerns about the virus with the need to continue preventive visits such as colonoscopies and mammograms.
According to the Health Care Cost Institute, which compiles national health care data for policymakers, mammograms were down nearly 80 percent in the early months of the pandemic compared with the same period a year earlier. Colonoscopies were down nearly 90 percent. For adults covered by Duke employee medical plans, preventive medicine visits of all kinds dropped 74 percent in May 2020 compared to a year earlier.
“You shouldn’t neglect these visits because it could lead to trouble down the road,” said Dr. Brian Antono, a family medicine and primary care doctor with Duke Family Medicine and Community Health.
For adults on Duke medical plans, the frequency of preventive care visits returned to pre-pandemic levels by the fall of 2020. That’s a welcome development since a study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated that staying current on preventive care visits could save as many as 100,000 lives each year.
Mammograms and colonoscopies are covered in full under Duke’s employee health plans. Annual physicals are covered with an office co-pay.
Duke health plan members can also take part in most office visits virtually through phone or video with a regular co-pay. Members of Duke Select, the most popular employee plan, have $20 co-pays for primary care visits; $55 for specialists.
“There’s more than one way to interact with us, and we will work with your concerns,” Antono said. “We just care about getting you the care you need.”
At her in-person visit, Amons got help for her knee pain, received praise for losing 10 pounds and left with peace of mind.
“I’d tell anybody to keep those visits up, especially as you get older,” Amons said. “It’s worth it.”
Learn more about employee medical benefits at hr.duke.edu/benefits