CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Government-run hospital Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC)’s Telekonsulta Service or distant consultation is a new practice suited for the “new normal” but doctors have to adapt, said a medical practitioner here.
Dr. Ramon Yap, an Internist-Gastroenterologist, said that a good part of diagnosing a patient is doing a complete physical check-up. But he believed majority of the patients can be safely managed through teleconsultation although some patients may really have to see a doctor in a clinic or referred to an appropriate institution like NMMC.
“The threat to the doctors is very real. We also have to think about protecting ourselves and our families, aside from trying to give comfort and healing to our patients,” Yap stressed as he expressed that the limited resources in the city has made the practice of medicine “very daunting” and “probably even unsettling”.
Since Telekonsulta kicked off late March this year, the hospital has handled over 400 consultations, sent out almost 200 electronic prescriptions, and facilitated around 50 referrals.
Physicians handling the teleconsultations have also set appointments for actual clinic consultations for cases where a clinic visit is absolutely necessary.
The doctors admitted there were limitations to what they can perform without physical interaction, but said they were looking for ways to cope with this new method especially in pediatrics which has the highest number of consultations.
Dr. Aris Austria, a pediatrician, has encouraged parents to check the condition of their children before calling up a physician. “Listen to the child’s breathing, feel their skin or pulse, touch the tummy, and describe what you find,” he advised.
Since it is not the ideal way of examination, he reminded that doctors should be cautious in utilizing information drawn from a teleconsultation to diagnose a patient’s condition.
“Teleconsultation should remain an option for patients under any circumstances that call for it, to hasten medical interventions, and to keep NMMC accessible to all the people in Region 10,” he said.
Partnering with Smart
Since this is the institution’s first time to implement teleconsultation, the Telekonsulta team has faced a lot of challenges, including a lack of proper guidelines or standard operating procedures.
“We also lacked essential materials, gadgets, and enough volunteers to keep teleconsultation running. However, with support from our hospital administration and private companies like Smart, we were able to set it up eventually,” Austria noted.
Smart provided the hospital with LTE phones capable of unlimited texts and calls to all networks and data connection. Each phone was assigned to doctors handling a specific field of specialization such as pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery or internal medicine, according to Smart in a press statement.
The unlimited texts and calls are “a huge advantage”, enabling doctors to attend to as many patients as possible, Austria said, especially when doctors and patients engaged in a back-and-forth exchange of information during teleconsultation.
“It is reassuring to both the patient and us physicians,” said Dr. Jannie Lyne Palisbo who has continued to treat her patients from home while her clinic is closed.
Dr. Peter Quiaoit, NMMC Medical Training Officer, was grateful that Smart has made the out-patient department services “a phone call away” in the time of crisis.
“Smart is committed to providing innovative communications solutions that help fight the COVID pandemic. The NMMC has taken a new path, using technology to enable their doctors to treat patients despite the current restrictions. That’s why we are quite happy to support their initiative,” said Mon Isberto, Smart Public Affairs Head. (davaotoday.com)