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Our hospitals are safe places to visit. Showing up is a pivotal moment in your care journey.
October 26, 2020

Please, keep those medical testing appointments

Originally published October 23, 2020 in The Hamilton Spectator.

Karen Finlay headshot

Dr. Karen Finlay

As hospitals continue to move ahead with services that were delayed because of the pandemic, the number of individuals missing their medical appointments has become a growing cause for concern.

At Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), between April 1 and Aug. 30, 2020, there were approximately 5,000 missed scheduled diagnostic and imaging appointments in diagnostic imaging (DI), nuclear medicine (NM) and medical diagnostic units (MDU), an increase of two per cent as compared to the same time last year.

At St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, there were approximately 1,700 missed diagnostic and imaging appointments during the same time, about a one per cent increase compared to last year.

This is a worrisome trend given that early diagnosis is essential to ensuring appropriate and timely treatment to minimize and even prevent more significant illness and disease.

Showing up is a pivotal moment in your care journey. This visit could make it possible to identify the early stages of illness, such as cancer, or detect another health issue that can be managed with therapy instead of progressing to the need for a surgical intervention. Timely diagnosis can provide important information for you and your doctor about what is going on and what needs to be done. Knowledge can also assist in reducing your anxiety about the unknown. Imaging is also key to tracking progress or improvement related to your current plan of care, in order to guide further decision-making and “next steps.”

We perform over 730,000 diagnostic studies at HHS and 267,000 at SJHH each year. Our imaging resources and procedures are tightly booked for every available opportunity. By not showing up for a scheduled appointment or providing sufficient prior notice of cancellation, there is a ripple effect on wait times and on other patients. If you decide not to attend an appointment, please let us know as soon as possible. We will try to give another patient the opportunity to take this spot. This will help us reduce wait times, improve care and use our precious health care resources wisely.

Our goal is to maximize the use of this equipment and available appointment times so that everyone waiting for a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, biopsy or other procedure is seen as soon as possible. More importantly, your illness or injury may get worse if we miss this assessment opportunity.

For those that may be fearful of going to the hospital during the pandemic, our hospitals are safe places to visit for investigations and procedures. There are extensive safety precautions in place including screening, enhanced cleaning, masking requirements and physical distancing measures. If you are feeling uncertain, your care provider would be happy to explain what will happen when you need to go to the hospital.

Please remember that timely assessment and follow up are a crucial and necessary step to assist you and your doctor with diagnosis, treatment and a management plan.

Your health is important. It is important to you, it is important to your family, it is important to us and we want to be a partner in your care.

Dr. Karen Finlay is chief of diagnostic imaging at Hamilton Health Sciences and Dr. Colm E. Boylan is chief of diagnostic imaging for St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.