Strengthening Patient-Doctor Connection During the Pandemic

Like most sectors, the healthcare sector turned to innovative channels to keep  communication lines open to patients to provide them medical attention and care in the past  year and a half. 

This was one of the highlights of the webinar titled “Kumusta Dok: Healthcare Beyond  COVID-19” that featured representatives from the Private Hospitals Association of the  Philippines (PHAPI), the Philippine Alliance for Patient Organization (PAPO), St. Luke’s Medical Center, and the University of Santo Tomas.

Kumusta Dok is an initiative that aims to empower patients to reconnect with their doctors  during the new normal. It helps increase the awareness to identify the risk factors, signs and  symptoms, of the top causes of death among Filipinos, including heart diseases, cancer,  stroke, pneumonia, and diabetes1. The program also gives tips and updates on the channels  available for patients to strengthen partnership with doctors throughout the health seeking  journey. It shares efforts being done by healthcare facilities to ensure safety of patients and  healthcare staff while delivering appropriate care.  

“Our doctors and facilities also had to adapt to the unprecedented situation that the  pandemic threw everyone into and find new ways in order for them to continue serving our  patients,” PHAPI Corporate Secretary Richard Lirio said.  

Lirio noted that reports have been coming out about the growing number of Filipino doctors  and patients adopting telemedicine, as well as the likelihood of the technology remaining in  demand even after the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Recently, the public have noted easing up of restrictions, decreasing number of COVID-19  cases, combined with the efforts from healthcare facilities to put in place a host of safety  measures contribute to building the confidence of Filipinos to go back to healthcare facilities  for consultation.  

According to Lirio, these include setting up separate waiting areas exclusively for non COVID-19 patients, mandatory screening for COVID-19 symptoms and completion of  declaration form prior to entering hospitals, and frequently sanitizing high-contact areas like  door handles, railings, and benches. Patients are also encouraged to set an appointment  with their doctors before heading to the hospital or clinic to prevent overcrowding and to  maintain physical distancing.

“With the safety measures healthcare professionals have been putting in place, immediate  and regular consultations are possible even though COVID-19 is still around,” Lirio said.  “The best time to see their doctor is now.”

The Kumusta Dok initiative was prompted by the staggering numbers of deaths from non-communicable diseases in the country. Based on a report by the Philippine Statistics  Authority, in 2020 alone, 100,000 Filipinos died from heart disease, over 60,000 from cancer, almost 40,000 from diabetes, roughly around 35,000 from pneumonia, and 25,000 from  hypertension. 

“There have been far fewer COVID-19 fatalities than any of these non-communicable  diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary  disease (COPD), but the fear of getting COVID-19 has prevented or discouraged many  patients suffering from other serious ailments from getting the medical attention and care  they need on a timely manner,” PAPO representative Leyden Florido said.  

“We need to get people back to taking charge of their health, especially those with these  serious non-communicable diseases before they get worse,” Florido noted, “prevention is  always better than cure. The earlier they consult and seek medical attention, the better for  everyone. This is especially true during the pandemic. Timely management of medical  conditions will lessen the potential for these diseases to worsen to the point of becoming an  emergency. This is one way of alleviating our emergency services that attend to both  COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.” 

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