Behind the Mask

How the pandemic is changing medicine

An English GP working on the healthcare front lines from the very beginning reported on pandemic’s impact on her job and how she’s had to embrace technology to rapidly adapt to the changes it’s brought; bringing her practice online and completely digitalizing it. Like everyone, she’s had to learn how to deal with new problems from screen fatigue, to solving her own Wi-Fi issues.

On the plus side, she immediately began to see a greater level of care taken by her patients when determining if they needed medical intervention.


Face to face split graphic

“What became apparent very quickly, was the status quo of patients seeing us face-to-face for every tiny problem was totally unnecessary, and now… I can barely remember what it’s like to see a patient face-to-face… It’s as though the patients have learned that we’re not needed as much as they thought we were”


For the patients she did continue to see, her practice was fully modified around minimizing contact, mostly by the swift uptake of telemedicine and telecommunication.

“We’re moving to a digitally first system using econsult or telephone calls… For patients, there isn’t a rush to get an appointment in the morning anymore. I can also work my day better as I’m not confined to actual surgery times and seeing patients – I can do the calls whenever I like, and even work from home.”

The other thing about the pandemics that we’re all using Microsoft teams. In the past, I would trek up to Oxford once a week for meetings, allowing an hour to get there and an hour to get back… This saves fuel, time, energy, and definitely my sanity.”

Now, months into the pandemic, our provider is finding all of this to be a change which could carry on far into the future.

I am surprised by the fact that actually we do not need to see the patients all of the time.

But of course, there are predictable and increasingly top-of-mind consequences to this new way of working for her and her team.

“I spend most of my days now sat at a desk, dealing with patients on the phone. I’m not moving, and I think this is actually really unhealthy… I’m going to have to modify the way I work and factor into my day… a time where I actually go outside, and actually go for a walk. I think that is quite important, because otherwise you end up going home feeling completely digitalized, if you like.”

Despite these worries, the jump in technological incorporation is something she sees lasting for the medical field – it will be retained even when the pandemic has ended.

Overall, it is the embracing of technology in medicine that
is creating a seismic shift in the way we practice now, and in the future.”

In many ways, doctors are experiencing the same effects of the pandemic as the rest of society – realizing that large parts of our lives, which we previously deemed necessary to happen in person, can easily be managed via digital channels. But as this became the norm, they too experience the negatives of lockdown – isolation, a lack of movement, and “screen-brain”.

So, as with all of us going forward, doctors will need to work to balance how both ‘in-person’ and ‘digital’ can co-exist in their working lives.

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