National Doctor's Day 2020: A gynaecologist explains how teleconsultations are helping people during COVID-19 pandemic
A day before National Doctor’s Day, which is observed on 1 July in India every year, Dr Archana Nirula, a gynaecologist, spoke about her experience while teleconsulting during this pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected healthcare systems of countries across the globe. Due to the consistent rise in the number of confirmed cases, doctors and other healthcare professionals are working overtime to provide care to the affected. In such a scenario, teleconsultation has been a boon as many are not being able to go to the hospital with their medical issues and some feel too scared to, given the possibility of exposure. A day before National Doctor’s Day, which is observed on 1 July in India every year, we spoke to Dr Archana Nirula, a gynaecologist, about her experience while teleconsulting during this pandemic.
How have you been consulting the patients during this pandemic?
Due to this pandemic, people are too scared to go to hospitals and get themselves treated. Moreover, the government has asked people with chronic diseases to stay home as a safety measure. To help all such people, I have been doing teleconsultations since day one of the lockdown. Teleconsultation is the most efficient way of solving the queries of the patients without putting them at any risk of infection. Since some hospitals are densely populated with COVID-19 patients, people with other diseases and concerns are not being able to get proper consultation as most doctors have been dedicated to COVID-19 duty. I am consulting people on phone calls, emails and sometimes via video call.
How have you been coping up with this COVID-19 situation personally?
On a personal level, the situation is not so good. Life has completely changed since the lockdown. I have elders at home and just like every other person, I am worried about their health and well-being.
As a doctor, I have not been able to see the regular OPD patients I used to see before the lockdown was implemented. Patients are extremely scared to visit clinics and hospitals - I myself have limited direct patient encounters, as per the government rules. I only see emergency cases as and when required. It’s quite frustrating as well because I have never had such a long gap of not working in the clinical space in my entire life. But I am glad that so many people are reaching out to me via teleconsultation for all their queries.
What kind of queries have you been getting during this pandemic?
As a gynaecologist, I have been getting queries from a lot of women who are pregnant regarding their antenatal care, which is the care required by the woman during her pregnancy. There are many necessary things such as vaccinations, medications and monitoring the baby movements which cannot be delayed. Because of this infectious disease, I prefer teleconsulting such patients until it’s absolutely necessary to see them in person, as they are also considered to be a high-risk group. I have been prescribing them medications and have been informing them about the complications they may face as they transition from one trimester to the other.
Have you consulted anyone with symptoms of COVID-19?
Since this disease is very similar to many other viral infections, I have been getting several queries from people who have complained of COVID-19-like symptoms such as cold, cough, sore throat and breathlessness. People with a mild cold or fever are panicking and want to know if this is COVID-19 or what other signs they have to look for. I have been telling all my patients not to worry if the fever goes away in a day or two. However, I have also received calls from people complaining of severe breathing problems, high-grade fever and loss of smell and taste. I have advised such patients to self-quarantine themselves and have prescribed them zinc, vitamin C, anti-allergics and sometimes ivermectin. I have also recommended the use of pulse oximeter to those who can afford one. I have been writing the national helpline number in the prescription letter so that the patient can contact the nearby hospital for the tests if they witness any worsening of symptoms.
What piece of advice would you like to give to people during this health crisis?
The most important thing one can do, for their own health as well as to help doctors all around, is to minimise exposure, take all recommended precautions and keep a track of symptoms. Even small fluctuations in your temperature can help us diagnose and treat you better.
Full Disclosure: myUpchar is a health startup that provides teleconsultation services with doctors.
For more information, read our article on Don't miss the signs of these diseases in the panic around COVID-19.
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