In response to the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) along with the Ministry Of Public Health (MOPH) introduced a new urgent consultation telemedicine service for residents and citizens of Qatar.
Dr Khalid Al Rumaihi, Head of Urology at HMC is managing the Urgent Consultation Service and says since being implemented, demand has steadily increased with the telephone-based service currently receiving upwards of 5,000 calls each week.
“We launched this service because we wanted to ensure the safety of both patients and physicians. The urgent consultation telemedicine service has enabled us to keep patients, particularly those who are most vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness, out of our clinics and out of the emergency department,” said Dr Al Rumaihi.
“Since first launching the service we have seen a steady increase in the number of patients calling. During our first week of operation, we averaged around 3,500 calls and we are currently averaging around 5,000 calls each week. We launched this service to provide the community with another care option, so we are happy that patients are taking advantage of it. We wanted to ensure patients had access to specialist care and were not putting medical issues on hold because they were trying to respect social distancing measures, or worse because they were afraid to come into the hospital,” added Dr Al Rumaihi.
The Urgent Consultation Service, which is currently staffed by over 20 doctors who are providing advice across 15 specialities also provides direct referrals to the emergency department and outpatient departments. Dr Al Rumaihi said since the physician-led service was launched they are seeing the greatest demand for general medicine, orthopaedics, gynaecology, geriatrics, cardiology, and mental health consults. He said around 60% of calls are from patients who have medication-related requests. Dr. Al Rumaihi says while the goal is to keep patients who do not need to be in the hospital, out of clinics, it is important to note that essential hospital services are still operating.
“Around 80% of regular outpatient services are now being provided through telemedicine. Last week our clinical teams provided over 27,000 telephone consultations to patients who are cared for as part of our outpatient services. We are working diligently to keep patients who don’t need to be in the hospital, out of the hospital, but not all care can be provided virtually and our doctors and nurses are continuing to work around the clock to treat patients who do require hospital-based care,” said Dr Al Rumaihi.
“Each week our labour and delivery teams welcome more than 400 babies into the world, our cancer specialists provide chemotherapy for more than 550 cancer patients, and our emergency department physicians treat more than 20,000 patients. Keeping patients out of the hospital and limiting their potential exposure to COVID-19 is important, but the public must continue to seek medical care as and when they require it. And it is important that they know we are doing everything possible to ensure that care can be accessed safely,” added Dr Al Rumaihi.
Dr Mohammed Al Ateeq, Head of Orthopedics at HMC and a member of the project steering committee for the Urgent Consultation Service agrees that while it is essential to keep non-urgent cases out of the emergency department as part of a strategy to curb and contain the spread of COVID-19, people mustn’t jeopardize their health because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are seeing real evidence that the urgent consultation telephone service is helping to reduce the burden on emergency services and is allowing us to keep otherwise healthy patients away from the hospital. This service has allowed us to bridge a gap by helping ensure patients who need care are directed to the right place. However, the public must understand this service is for non-life-threatening conditions and that they must not delay getting help if they are experiencing a life-threatening condition, such as a heart attack or stroke. We want people to know that if you are experiencing a true emergency, they must go to the emergency department or call 999,” said Dr Al Ateeq
The Urgent Consultation Service is available to any member of the public and can be accessed by calling 16000 between 8 am to 1 pm and 8 pm to 1 am, Saturday to Thursday, and 8 am to 1 pm on Fridays (Ramadan hours).
For more information, please visit: HMC