April 25, 2020 9:41:37 pm
Doctors are attending to fewer patients to maintain social distancing norms. Many patients are accessing medical assistance and advice over the phone. Doctors in the city said while consultation over the phone during the lockdown had increased, general walk-in at out-patient departments and clinics had reduced by 80 per cent.
“We receive calls from patients and we consult by talking to them. We ask them to describe their symptoms and we prescribe required medication after referring to previous records. As for any physical symptoms, we ask them to either to click a picture and send or show it through a video call. We diagnose the problem and write them a prescription, click a picture and send it via WhatsApp. This way, they can go and get medicines from the pharmacy,” said Dr. Sanjay Patil, vice-president, Indian Medical Association (IMA), Maharashtra.
He also said the concern was more among senior citizens with comorbidities. “Patients with diabetes, hypertension, renal ailments or any other underlying diseases are majorly concerned about their well-being as they are susceptible,” he said.
Misinformation and overexposure to knowledge about the coronavirus has also generated a fear in the masses. Dr. Padma Iyer, former president of IMA Pune, said people called her even if they felt a tiny itch in their throat. “With information everywhere, people are more confused and concerned. I have received calls where the patient is experiencing an itch or soreness in her throat. If there are no other symptoms such as fever and if the existing symptom does not worsen, chances are that they are local symptoms due to the intake of a cold beverage or ice cream,” she said.
“On any average day, I would have around 40 to 50 patients but now the number has reduced to 10. Additionally, patients who come in with their grievances, they immediately inform me that they do not have symptoms. I fear that this way we will not be able to get early detection. I also receive frantic calls every other day where we counsel the patient,” said Dr. Raju Varyani, treasurer, IMA Pune.
With everyone at home, family physician Hillary Rodrigues said there was a drop in cases of measles and chicken pox. “As there is no contact among children, such cases are comparatively fewer. For senior citizens and children, I do not ask them to come all the way to get checked unless a physical examination is necessary. As for cases of PCOD (polycystic ovarian disorder) and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), we are asking for clinical consultation if there is something that stands out of routine. Rest all routine check-ups and follow-ups are as per usual,” he said.
Dr. Rodrigues also said while they attended to patients, they also kept a lookout for symptoms of COVID-19. “If we feel that the individual needs to get themselves checked, we refer them to flu clinics after counselling and reassuring them. You see the fear is not of the disease alone but of being away from loved ones, getting quarantined and, of course, death,” he said.
The doctors are also trying to ensure that clinical examinations are limited in a day and there is a gap between appointments. They also make sure that they write a note so as to facilitate travel of patients amid the lockdown. A written prescription helps the patient to buy the medication required.
“There is a fear psychosis among people due to COVID-19 and the lockdown. We are aiming at early detection as several infected are asymptomatic. While specialty branches such as psychiatry, ENT (ear, nose and throat), gynaecology have their helplines, we are trying to have a general helpline for medical inquiries. The patient can be directed to a doctor. We are counselling people to practice all precautionary measures to stay safe,” said Dr. Ranjan Sancheti, secretary, IMA Pune.
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