While the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is at the top of everyone’s mind of late, it is not the only health concern for people.
Dr. Adam Thompson, COVID-19 physician lead for the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice, says there is concern in the medical community that some people are not staying in touch with their family doctors, even if they are not feeling well, out of concern over COVID-19, or perhaps out of a misunderstanding about the availability of their family doctors. This, he says, is a situation in which patients can be risking harm to themselves.
“We could encourage people to be back in touch with their doctor now,” he said. “Patients really do need to be getting in contact with their doctor if they’re feeling unwell.”
There is another concern family doctors have right now: the need for parents to ensure their children get their routine vaccinations.
The visiting process will still initially be through virtual communication to maintain physical distancing, while services such as prescriptions can be sent in directly.
“We’re here, and we’re offering the same hours,” he said. “We’re just doing practice in a slightly different way.”
Doctors of BC, formerly the BC Medical Association, has a video series for doctors about providing virtual care and notes on its website that 10,000 Zoom licences have been made available at no cost for doctors to provide virtual communication with patients.
Thompson says he expects some changes in the weeks ahead, with some routine work likely returning to hospitals. He says conserving personal protective equipment (PPE) remains a priority, adding there is the CAPE (Community Assessment and Physical Examination) Clinic set up to examine patients, that has demonstrated its ability to reduce PPE usage and standardize infection control for patient examinations.
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Over the long term, once the COVID-19 situation has been eliminated or is at least under control, Thompson says the current situation could result in changes to the way care is provided, with more virtual care perhaps becoming a common practice, though this change would need to be decided in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
“There’s a whole question about how primary care is going to change moving forward,” he said. “Are we going to be using virtual care a lot more than we have been in the past? We might find patients prefer the ability to do that.”