Column: A Doctor's Mind 【Part 1】

The first part: From the Everyday Life of a Clinical Doctor

Clinical Doctor, Telemedicine

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Digital Health Needed in COVID-19 Pandemic

Hello. My name is Dr. Shinpaku . I usually write a series of articles introducing start-up technologies in Japan, but this time I would like to talk about what I feel from my daily practice as a doctor.

I specialize in respiratory and infectious diseases and usually provide medical care at a regional core hospital. Recently, the sixth wave of the pandemic has been raging and I was hoping that the tragedy we had experienced in the fifth wave would not happen again. My impression of the sixth wave was that initially there were many mild cases among young people, but as the number of infected patients increased, affected elderly patients became more prominent. Naturally, the number of moderately and critically ill patients also increased belatedly accordingly, resulting in full occupancy of hospital beds. I am now experiencing a true collapse of medical care, with restrictions not only on coronas, but also on general medical care.

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In such a situation, examinations are limited, and auscultation is performed only when necessary, in order to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible. When COVID-19 pandemic started, I initially felt the threat of an unknown virus, so when I saw a device that allowed auscultation with a remote stethoscope without direct auscultation, I thought it would be great if this became widely available.

There was much anticipation that online medical care would become widespread after regulations were eased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately, it has not. It is only practiced in a few clinics and free medical clinics. At least I have not heard of any medical institutions around me or anyone I know that offer online medical care.

Of course, there may be some reasons why it has not been spread, such as the issue of insurance points (medical fee points ). The benefits of actively introducing online medical care may be not as great as the effort required to maintain them. Considering the diseases and conditions of the patients attending a large hospital such as the one where I work, it is not likely that everything can be covered by online medical care. This is because the disease requires not only medical interviews and examinations but also blood samples and imaging tests such as chest X-rays and CTs in many cases.

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However, house calls allow patients to have blood tests and ultrasound examinations in the comfort of their own homes, and recently, portable X-rays have been developed. Considering these factors, if the medical fee can cover these procedures depending on the labor, online and telemedicine services may become a little more widespread in the future.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, we have extended the consultation intervals for patients with stable conditions and also started prescription-only outpatient clinics. In addition, the rapid increase in the number of corona patients caused emergency medicine to be halted, and we experienced the loss of lives that could have been saved. I hope that the power of digital health will help medical care and save patients' lives at such times.

(To be continued to the next part)

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