In line to fight the global pandemic triggered by Covid19, the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) had started an urgent consultation telemedicine service in late march to facilitate medical help to the needy. Dr. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Head of Urology at HMC has been made the managing director of the consultation service. As per him, the demand has increased steadily over the month and by now the service has started to receive more than 5000 calls each week to facilitate telephone-based service.
As per Dr. Al Rumaihi, “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,”
“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,” he added.
The Urgent Consultation Service has currently 20 doctors who are from 15 different specialties and provide advice and referrals to patients seeking care. The critical patients are then referred to as emergency and outpatient departments. As per the director, the departments which are high in demand are general medicine, orthopedics, gynecology, geriatrics, cardiology, and mental health. As per him, 60% of calls come from people who seek medication to general ailments. The goal here is to keep the patients who do not need urgent services to be out of the hospital so that Covid19 patients are given essential services.
“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 labor 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.
Senior doctor Dr. Mohammed Al Ateeq who is head of Orthopaedics at HMC and also a member of the Urgent Consultation Services agrees to the plan of the director in keeping the non-urgent cases out of the emergency department to focus fiercely on Covid19 patients and measures to contain it as soon as possible.
“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 can be availed by anyone by calling on 16000 between 8 am to 1 pm and between 8 pm to 1 am on Saturdays to Thursdays while it can be availed on Fridays from 8 am to 1 pm.