There is a growing concern among health care providers regarding patients who fail to disclose they have symptoms of COVID-19 before entering a medical facility.
“Waiting until you are in an exam room to disclose to your doctor that you have COVID-19 or COVID symptoms is simply too late,” says Ghazala Sharieff, MD, MBA, Scripps chief medical officer, acute care, clinical excellence and experience. “Accurate information affects the way we approach personal protective equipment and the rooms we may put patients in. It protects health workers, patients and visitors.”
Everyone entering a Scripps Health treatment facility must be screened for COVID-19 by answering questions about possible symptoms and/or exposure for the coronavirus. The screening tool is only one of several added safety measures Scripps has taken to help prevent the spread of the virus — but it is a vital one that is dependent on honest answers from patients in order to be effective.
“It’s important to answer screening questions carefully and not rush the process just to make your appointment on time or because you’re afraid you won’t be seen if you say you have a symptom,” Dr. Sharieff says. “You will receive the care you need regardless of your symptoms.”
A recent study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who had tested positive for COVID-19 or had symptoms weren’t always honest about their condition around others.
The study surveyed 451 adults in the United States and found women were more likely to disclose health symptoms than men, and older adults were more honest about COVID-19 status and behaviors than younger people.
“Often, lying feels easier and safer than being honest,” says Leah Welch, PhD, a psychologist at Scripps Health. “The study showed approximately one-third of participants who had tested positive denied having symptoms when asked by others and more than one-half reported some level of concealment of their symptoms.”
“Concealing key health information can protect ourselves and our image, but then, negatively impact others,” according to Welch. “It’s important that we do all we can to keep ourselves and others safe, and not jeopardize the health of others.”
Honest disclosures about COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms and behaviors are imperative to help monitor the spread of the virus and protect the health of the community.
“Concealing your COVID status to the screeners upon entry not only impedes efforts to slow the spread of the virus, but it also can risk the health of the doctors and staff who are taking care of you if they are not alerted to take the proper precautions,” says Dr. Sharieff.
Health officials urge people not to delay any time-sensitive care for a medical condition due to fears of coronavirus. Medical facilities that follow recommended COVID-19 safety measures are still safe places to visit.
“People also should not hesitate to seek emergency care because their condition may require rapid or advanced treatments that are only available in a hospital setting,” Dr. Sharieff says.
At Scripps, safety measures have been implemented at all facilities, including:
- Screenings for everyone entering facilities
- Required face coverings for all physicians, staff and patients
- Curbside check-in option and social distancing in waiting rooms
- Rigorous cleaning and disinfection for all facilities and equipment
- Dedicated entrance and isolated zones for patients with coronavirus symptoms
- Limited visitors to all Scripps facilities