Over the last few weeks, going to a hospital has become difficult for many people owing to lockdown measures as well as curfew restrictions. For those afraid of venturing out, it has been a scary affair.
But technology is providing a solution to this problem.
Applications like Zoom and WhatsApp are providing room for patients to speak to their doctors virtually, getting treatment without setting their foot on the hospitals.
A patient we will not name for legal reasons tells me that tele-consultation has spared her and her daughter the ordeal of having to physically visit hospitals in the time of the Coronavirus.
“My daughter attends a neurology clinic and the physical interaction is not always necessary for her case. Most of the time it is based on observation which can be done via video unless there’s really a need,” she says.
On a normal day, it would take the mother about three hours to get to and from the hospital taking her daughter there for checkups.
“I work in the public service meaning that I lose time every time I go to the hospital and considering my daughter is in form four, she also loses critical time on our way there,” adds Anne whose daughter attends clinic at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.
According to her daughter, it takes about 10 minutes to have an engagement with the doctor, get a prescription, and pay for the medicine to be delivered at home.
“It is better than going to the hospital. Through the video the doctor is able to interact with me well and was really patient,” says the daughter.
All diseases cannot be treated virtually, but through such measures, the number of patients flocking to hospitals is reduced considerably especially during this pandemic.
A second patient whom we shall simply refer to as Allice is also a beneficiary of the tele-consultation program by Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.
“As days went by and cases of Covid-19 were increasingly being recorded in the country I got scared of taking my child for the appointment,” says Allice.
Further Allice adds the doctor provided an option of tele-consultation which was quite a relief to them as a family.
“An hour before the appointment time the hospital sent the meeting ID and once the session began, the doctor asked all the relevant questions, interacted well with the child and I can say it was an amazing experience,” says Allice.
According to Allice, tele-consultation is much better during this season especially for parents with young children who are, at times, forced to run up and down in the hospitals seeking treatment.
“This is a developing aspect and it’s amazing that we can still attend to our patients even when they do not physically come to the hospital. Importantly, through media like WhatsApp video calls we are able to interact and even send prescriptions via email that are authentic,” says Dr Dilraj Sokhi, a consultant neurologist at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.
According to Dr Sohki, tele-consultation and tele-medicine are a novelty that is being adopted the world over and it is high time Kenya joins in.
“There are few specialists here in the country. For example, we have about 18 neurologists only and who are supposed to cater to the needs of the entire Kenyan population. This is not feasible but through avenues as tele-medicine and tele-consultation, we will be able to reach more people and even ensure that those who really don’t need to come to the hospital are attended to giving room for those who are in dire need of physical access to the facilities,” adds Dr Sohki.
On average, a patient attending a physical session at a hospital will take at least half a day depending on various circumstances but through virtual communication, the time taken making in cues waiting to see a doctor and lining up at the pharmacy can be put into more beneficial use.
Our new normal is now virtual communication through various social media platforms which is why access to health care is now at the tap of your phone.
Although not all hospitals have embraced such an approach, Aga Khan University, Nairobi has set the pace by offering services such as dietetics, family medicine clinic, and medical clinics like neurology, rheumatology, and cardiology among others via tele-consultation.
Isn’t it wonderful how a doctor is a double click on your keyboard away?
More about this service can be found at: https://hospitals.aku.edu/nairobi/ForPatientAndVisitors/Pages/Tele-consultation.aspx