The Trust Hospital has introduced a new service that leverages technology to continue serving its clients whether they are at home or in the office.
Dubbed ‘The Trust Hospital Telemedicine Service’, the introduction of the service, though in the works since 2019, was fastracked by the impact of COVID-19 on its operations which saw a reduction in the number of existing and potential clients who were expected to call on their general practitioners and specialists for consultation and or medication.
In an interview with Dr. Julianna Oye Ameh, CEO of the hospital, she explained that COVID-19 has had both positive and negative impacts on the business of the hospital. Positively, she noted that it brought forward the introduction of the telemedicine service, improved the hospital’s appointment system, and governance-wise, the hospital is being run more efficiently as meetings are done virtually and start on time.
But negatively, she touched on the high prices and sometimes unavailability of supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face masks, surgical gowns, hazmat gowns, goggles, N95s, gloves and others. “At a point, even PPE were not available with the money one had due to the closure of borders,” she said.
That notwithstanding, the gradual reopening of the economy is welcome news to her and she believes with the newly introduced telemedicine service, which is growing rapidly, the hospital’s financial position would improve significantly.
Driving efficiency and promoting quality
Since the introduction of telemedicine, she says feedback shows that not many of the clients actually need to come to the hospital to queue up. “We are now engaging clients and patients from home via phone and video calls and if there is the need for a lab test, we either go to the home or office or ask them to visit a nearest branch and medication is packaged and delivered at a small fee,” she said.
“At the end of the day we are driving efficiency, less congestion in the facilities, less delays because time is money. We want things to run smoothly and seamlessly to help clients access quality healthcare and still do their works,” she added.
Also, COVID-19 has allowed the hospital to strengthen its appointment systems. “In the past patients or clients come and queue but now you can call and schedule an appointment with your General Practitioner and then you have the time to come in person or request for a virtual consultation,” she added.
Packages on telemedicine
Expanding on the services telemedicine offers, she listed dietary advice, physiotherapy, ante-natal services including classes being conducted virtually with a gym instructor giving directions and others. “The options are many and our staff are more alert with everyone primed towards decongestion which has led to more efficiency and effectiveness in operation. Everyone is now more innovative and I am happy to be the leader of such a team.”
What telemedicine cannot do yet
Despite the convenience telemedicine offers, she explained that not all services are provided via the platform.
“Telemedicine cannot deal with emergencies. Once you have an emergency medical condition you have to be rushed to the hospital. Also, for a first time serious medical condition, it is advisable to come to the hospital but then for your reviews, telemedicine can take of that. For our mums and dads with their diabetes, hypertensions, they do not need to come to the hospital unless they are unwell.
Sometimes, they need a refill of their prescriptions, doctor asking about symptoms, and they can always check their sugar levels and relay that to the doctor via telemedicine. Obviously surgery cannot be done over telemedicine but unless in serious emergencies, patients are prepared towards surgery and telemedicine has a role to play in preparing the patient. The doctor getting you to do labs before a surgery can be done using the telemedicine option,” she added.
Communication channels and affordability
Dr. Ameh noted that with technology improving constantly, more communication channels are being introduced and also, the service is more affordable when compared to physically coming to the hospital.
“Telemedicine currently has two options: phone and video calls to reach out to patients or clients. As an evolving service, we are improving our means of communication. As technology improves we can use cameras and monitors to beam teleconsultation to clients and we are investing in this.
One of the best things about technology is that it usually cuts down cost and so it is with telemedicine. Using telemedicine to reach out to your doctor is more affordable than coming to the hospital to see the same doctor. Apart from affordability, it offers convenience like no other service can,” she added.
Safety at the hospital
To her, telemedicine holds the key to a sustainable future that is why the hospital is leaving no stone unturned to roll it out and educate the public on its advantages but even if you have to come to the hospital, measures have been taken, with COVID-19 in mind, to keep every stakeholder safe.
“The Trust Hospital is very passionate about patient and staff safety and so we have put in place so many measures to make the place safe for our clients. We have invested a lot in the best disinfectants with anti-viral properties and our cleaning team is doing over and above what we have asked them to do. We have put in extractors and doing a lot to ensure patient safety.
There is less congestion, less waiting time and the staff are highly motivated and following the necessary safety measures in place. it is a very safe place for people to access healthcare. There should be no fear at all.
Even if our clients show COVID-19 symptoms, we have our own isolation bay at the Specialist Hospital. We are working well with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Municipal Health Directorate. There really is no need to fear and stigmatise any COVID-19 patient or hospital.
I want to assure the general public that the standards of care have not been compromised, we have cut corners because of COVID-19, neither have we reduced it. Our medicines are top brands are we are value for money. Our clients should be rest assured and partner with us for better outcomes.”