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The lighter side of e-consultations |

Health And Family

The lighter side of e-consultations

UNDER YOUR SKIN - Grace Carole Beltran MD - The Philippine Star
The lighter side of e-consultations
Medical experts are fighting the coronavirus battle inside the hospital, as well as online.
Photo from Pexels

What is happening to our world today is very much like scenes from the movie Pandemic.  Thanks to a mutating virus that originated from Wuhan, China, people are required to quarantine once again.

But the good news is that not everything is dark and gloomy. Amid the chaos and confinement, there are some people who are working very hard to make sure our physical and mental health stays in good shape.

In this global calamity, health professionals have emerged as the real heroes. And they’re not just restricted to treating this brutal disease; they are also addressing both acute and chronic disorders and other health problems that require attention during these trying times.

Since most hospitals are functioning only for emergency purposes, a lot of doctors have taken their practice online. They are treating people over the phone, through video calls and even chats, breaking the cycle and need for physical travel, waiting in long queues, close contact with other people and other physical factors. The power of telemedicine has never been stronger than today.

Here are some of my stories about patients who have sought online consultations during the pandemic, which made me laugh and sometimes cry in disbelief:

Patient No. 1:  A woman was consulting for a white discoloration on her face.  She sent me a picture, taken very far from the camera, and showing only about a third of her face.  When I enlarged the picture, I saw two things: a darkly pigmented area and the white discoloration. So, I told the patient to show her whole face, but instead she showed the same picture but now a little bit closer to the camera. Still, it did not make a difference. She then told me she was consulting for the white spot and not the dark one.  Some people think that a certain discoloration is the problem, when actually the other one could be more important. Since she didn’t show her whole face, I told her to come and visit me in person, as I wanted to be sure which discoloration was actually the abnormal one.

Patient No. 2:  A mother was consulting for the itchy papules on the skin of her three-year-old daughter.  She showed pictures that were not very clear.  I asked her for the age of her daughter, but instead she told me that her other child, who is seven years old, was actually the one who was suffering from itchiness. She also showed me happy pictures of all her kids. Then she said that her seven-year-old kid was already treated with Fizzapi. “What’s that?” I asked. She replied: “Powder, doc. Pizzan.”  This made me laugh, because she meant Fissan, a remedy for prickly heat. I asked her if there were other house members who had the same symptoms. She answered: “Yes, doc. I’m also itching right now, but I am in Saudi.” So I told her to ask her husband to call me instead since he’s the one caring for the children.

Patient No. 3:  I was talking to the father, who wanted a video call so he could be sure that he was talking to me.  So we began talking via video.   He showed a video of his son, which made me dizzy because it was out of focus and the pace was so fast that even before I could analyze what I was looking at, he had already switched to another area of the skin.  So, I suggested that he do it in slow motion.  He did it more slowly, but everything was out of focus and blurred. After three dizzying videos, I was able to manage and make a diagnosis.

Patient No. 4:  A regular patient texted me around 8:30 p.m. to tell me that she had called my secretary to make an appointment. An hour later, she texted me again telling me that her mother was crying because she was in severe pain.  So even if I was already in bed, I asked my assistant to accompany me so that we could prepare what the patient needed to ease her pain. We prepared everything and wrote a prescription for the patient.  Then she told me that her money was not enough and asked me to remove some of the items. After 15 minutes, she texted me again at around 10:30 to inform me that she would be paying the full amount. Then she began asking questions again. I told her to proceed with payment first and I would answer all her queries the next day, since I had to book a rider to pick up the prescription and I was really sleepy. I didn’t realize that the text message I sent her was in capital letters. So she thought that I was angry and told me to continue the transaction the next day. I followed up the next morning but she did not even reply to my messages.

During these trying times, online consultation is a safe way of getting an expert’s advice and referrals, as it eliminates the chances of getting infected or infecting others. But a lot of miscommunications can happen and sometimes patients do not understand that the doctor gets tired, too. I still prefer face-to-face consultations because sometimes pictures can be confusing and patient’s responses are not accurate. The color of the lesions can be masked or changed by the lighting during the photo shoot.

There are also times that the patient would consult on a certain date then get back to you several days later.  Then you have to review everything that you talked about during the first consult.  This is a waste of time.  So for me, e-consultations really test your patience.

Medical experts are fighting the coronavirus battle inside the hospital, as well as online. While the healthcare sector is tirelessly working to shield us from this pandemic, we must take every opportunity to appreciate their tremendous courage and place our trust in them and do our best to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.

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For inquiries, call 840-8411, SMS 0917-571-1992, 0999-883-4802 or  Follow me on facebook@dragracebeltran.

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