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The one-year anniversary of the pandemic lifestyle in this country is fast approaching and because we have no other choice but to adapt, given the way our government has repeatedly dropped the ball throughout the course of its chaotic and senseless pandemic response, many of us have gotten used to the prospect of living with Covid-19 for a few more months or years.

The last couple of weeks have seen me and my family members playing catch up on the many obligations we have been putting off because of the pandemic.

Our family finally visited our dentist only after my wife’s toothache became unbearable. Pretending like these medical professionals didn’t exist stopped becoming an option so we all scheduled a visit to the dentist and had our long-delayed checkups and cleaning sessions. We all went together so we can quarantine together, and based on the results thus far, visiting the dentist, while involving more risk of infection than staying at home, wasn’t so bad.

If there was one thing that was improved by the pandemic, healthcare practitioners seem to have established a newfound respect for time.

Aside from the long-delayed visit to the dentist, I also had to go back to getting the regular semi-annual blood tests that had been indefinitely postponed by the pandemic. As much as I would like to adopt the government strategy of no-test-result, nothing to worry about, I had to find out and submit to my doctor how my body and its blood chemistry have been reacting to our pandemic lifestyle.

While there were adaptations and improvements that allowed patients to interact with healthcare providers, my recent trips to the different clinics have shown that there is still a lot of room for improvement.

One observation I made is that, while most clinics have put in place additional safety equipment like HEPA filters, barriers, and microphones, it does not seem like our doctors are inclined to take their practice online as much as possible and that patients still spend too much time unnecessarily waiting and potentially exposing themselves to all sorts of infection.

My backlog in consultations and follow ups, coupled with my age where I’m no longer the spring chicken I thought I was, meant that I’ve seen a few doctors in the past few months. I can understand the need for the face-to-face component in consultations because doctors do need to see their patients, but in my layman’s opinion, there are follow ups that could and should be done online after the initial personal appearance has been conducted.

Follow ups can be done via video call. Lab reports can be submitted via email. Online payments can be facilitated. For most cases, we shouldn’t have to go to the clinics and laboratories more than once.

I don’t know if the people resistant to change are the doctors or their staff/secretaries, but I reckon there is a lot of efficiency to be gained from doctors seeing patients online as much as they can. They can see more patients safely. We don’t have to waste time waiting in a semi-public space with other people who may, or may not, have different diseases. If they set up a proper system, they can still be paid for the consultation and not give away their time for free. Pre-payment can be an option if they don’t trust their patients to pay up. I, for one, would be glad to pre-pay for a confirmed 15-minute appointment that can be done from home.

One godforsaken year into this pandemic, it is the doctors who should know by now just how much longer this unfortunate series of events will last and they should be among the first to adapt and take advantage of technology for their practice to become more efficient and profitable. An initial face-to-face consultation followed by a series of online follow ups should do the trick. If another physical checkup is necessary, then one can be scheduled but, for most normal cases, patients shouldn’t have to go to the clinic anymore.

Unless my body decides to mess with me, I should be done with my series of consultations for this year. I’m hoping that by the time I have to go back in 6 months – 1 year, our doctors will have embraced technology, whether our government gets its pandemic response and vaccination act together, or not, because that is the best way forward for this sector.

What will it take for evolution to finally take place?*

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