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Audio Diary: Family Medicine Practices Still Adjusting To Pandemic

Dr. Daniel Spogen wearing a checkered shirt and lab coat.
University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
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Studies by The Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare advocacy group, report primary care physicians have seen declines in the number of patients seeking outpatient care during the pandemic. That means many people may be delaying care they would otherwise need. Doctor Daniel Spogen is a Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno. He also runs the Elko Family Medical and Dental Center. He shares his experience working during the pandemic in this audio diary.

Daniel Spogen: One of the things that we've seen a lot is that people with normal things who would have gone into the emergency room, they're not doing that anymore. It's, kind of like, I've got chest pain, but I don't want to go into the hospital because there's COVID [there]. And so our non-COVID hospitalized patients have really dropped down a lot.

Our practice is really volatile. You know, I mean, really heavy days and then nobody, and then a heavy day. You know, it's just up and down like that. There was, a couple of weeks ago, [a situation] where half of our staff was gone. They were either exposed or had COVID, you know? And so then we had to figure out how we're going to see patients without staff, as well as trying to figure out how many staff to have on any given day.

In family medicine, we get to know our patients pretty well…

There's Mrs. Jones. I've seen her the last 20 years for high blood pressure, that kind of thing. Give them hugs as they come in the door, you know, that kind of stuff. And of course, all that is distant now. So that compassion [is] just not happening right now.

You know, there's a lot of value with touch. As far as patients feeling comfortable about their medical care. They know the compassion is there, that you're feeling whatever is bothering them, their pain. Without that ability to become close and touch and stuff like that, it's not that there's less of a trust per se, especially in my well-established patients, but it's just not as encompassing as the normal vist would be.

This piece was produced by KUNR’s Paul Boger.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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