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Strengthening Patient-Doctor Connection During the Pandemic

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 a program also supported by Boehringer Ingelheim (Philippines), Inc. 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.”