An ambulance comes driving out of a smartphone

What Comes Out of Pandemic?

COVID-19 pandemic brought up so many miseries. One of such is involving large groups of people, such as sports, concerts, conferences, and rallies, and how such activities had to be canceled or reduced in size. But the best part of these community events is they allowed people to cheer and even anguish together. People are social creatures after all.

Virtual medical visiting

Certain activities can be carried out individually. However, some activities have been canceled entirely because of fear, uncertainty, and health concerns. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no choice but to try such options. Below is one experiment carried out during COVID-19 era in Toronto, Canada. From it, it's possible to peak into the future.

I'm talking about modern medical visiting. It's not restricted to only visiting doctors but also tests in laboratories, administrating of injections, essential physical examinations, and patient surveys.

Preparation of virtual visiting doctors

Take me as an example -- a stage 4 lung cancer patient. A regular medical visit happens every three months and has some pre-visiting works. That includes bloodwork, CT scan, and MRI scan, which occur at different labs and different times. If it's an abnormal visit, more lab works are required, like EKG, more blood work...

Another example is my parents, who are 84 and 85 years old, but relatively healthy. To visit the doctor, they have to call the doctor first, get the appointment, receive the requisition of blood test and urine test from the mail and go to a lab to have the tests. With age and low mobility, they can not drive and independently carried out the tasks anymore. In the winter in Canada, walking outside makes me quite nervous.

The above visits are just regular visits. If the doctors suspect problems with health; additional tests will be ordered.

Help from paramedics

This experiment has been created in Toronto, Canada for several years. But due to funding difficulties, it has not been in practice on a large scale. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has no choice but to try it.

The idea is to use the paramedics for the outreach portions of the patient and elderly care. Everybody has access to a family physician 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The paramedics are in the patient's home, making sure they have everything to make them safe. At the same time, they do all the feasible lab work, such as bloodwork and urine test, administrating shots, basic physical check-ups, and patient surveys.

This kind of service has provided patients with much-needed convenience. It also reduces unnecessarily crowded in laboratories and hospitals. It can avoid too much human contact, especially those with underline medical conditions.

Virtual doctor's appointments showing positive results

Virtual visits of doctors are not as strange after the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, Virtual Triage Assessment Center (VTAC) has been established in Toronto. The developers have worked with technical teams, paramedics, and doctors. The patient first calls the receptionist. As soon as the receptionist get the details and see the schedule, the doctor can see the patients through an online system. The necessary preparation works, like urine tests and blood tests, can be done before or after visiting the doctor.

Since March 2020, VTAC has tested 2500 patients. Hopefully, we will see some positive results.

Benefits of using paramedics and telemedicine

For patients who have difficulties to go to the labs and the clinics, having the paramedics to visit them reduces the burdens for the patients. Meanwhile, it reduces the load on doctors so that they can focus on challenging medical cases. With physician shortage in Toronto and other cities in Canada, the paramedic can offer the answer.

After the idea of using paramedics to meet the patients' needs, many countries, like Spain, Italy, etc., have shown interest and considering adapting the method to their countries. Currently, funding is a problem.

Although the new way of visiting the doctors and using the paramedics has some problems, I think it has great potential for the future medical system, from patients to doctors, from reducing the cost and improving the efficiency. It's especially significant for our healthcare system to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

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