As the world continues to adapt to the changes which have been necessary as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, we have never been so acutely aware of the amazing work being carried out by our healthcare professionals. We spoke to our dedicated GP, Dr Roisin McHugh, about how the virus has impacted her day to day life.
OOP: Tell us a bit about your work
Dr McHugh: I work as a long-term locum which means that, as well as supporting those people who come to www.oxfordonlinepharmacy.co.uk for their medication needs, I also work in a online pharmacy
. Over the past few weeks, we have seen a huge amount of change in the way that we operate. GPs are doing more phone and video consults, seeing as many people as we can, but we are also open for business as usual.
OOP: So how does a video consult work?
Dr McHugh: Well, if you take a case of dermatitis for example, the GP would send you a link directly to your phone. Clicking on the link activates the video call. The doctor will look at your symptoms and if the situation is straightforward, they will prescribe your medication all without needing to come into the GP surgery. The prescription is then sent via email to the pharmacy of your choice and you can collect it or, if you are self isolating, you would ask one of the NHS volunteers or a neighbour to pick it up on your behalf. Some Pharmacies will also deliver your medication.
OOP: what about other health conditions are they still being treated?
Dr McHugh: Despite the fact that the coronavirus has brought the world to a standstill, we must not forget that people still get ill, heart attacks and strokes still happen, people still need to keep an eye on their health. Importantly if they notice any changes they need to get in touch. A phone call or video consult will enable your GP to quickly determine whether or not they need to see you.
OOP: Do you think any of the measures implemented because of COVID-19 will continue when things are back to normal?
Dr McHugh: I firmly believe this will impact the future model of care around the world. Video and telephone consults will become the norm in those cases where face to face contact simply isn’t necessary. Consider a mum at home with a poorly child who does not want to drag the child to see the GP, or indeed someone with contagious diarrhoea and vomiting, who really needs to stay at home, but might need some professional advice on how to look after themselves.
OOP: Have you been surprised to see how well people have adapted to using online healthcare?
Dr McHugh: I have worked in online healthcare for many years and I have seen its gradual uptake, particularly with online pharmacy. I would say that the virus has certainly accelerated people's acceptance at a much broader level, which is really pleasing to see. Online has so much to offer in terms of healthcare support. Services such as video consultations and online pharmacy are definitely coming into their own. It is important to make sure you use a legitimate provider, make sure you check their registration and reviews which will be easy to find on the provider's website.
OOP: Can you talk us through what is being done to minimise exposure to the virus for patients coming into surgery?
Dr McHugh: Patients phoning into surgery are triaged to reduce footfall and protect patients and staff. For anyone coming in to see a doctor we have clearly defined zones for COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients. That way we limit the chances of the virus spreading. In the case of COVID-19 patients, consultations are much longer to allow time for pre and post cleansing of the room. All patients are given clear guidance on how to come into the surgery, they have access to alcohol gel if they do not have COVID-19 related symptoms and a mask and gloves if they do.
OOP: Have you seen any positive health outcomes from this crisis?
Dr McHugh: Everything has been stripped back, there is minimal distraction and this has highlighted those things that are most important to us: our health, family and friends.
What has been interesting to see is the increase in the number of people looking for help to lose weight and stop smoking. Those who are overweight and smokers have poorer outcomes from the COVID-19 virus and so they are taking matters into their own hands. Even though giving up smoking, whilst at home and in these current circumstances may not be ideal, people understand that they have to take positive action. Oxford Online Pharmacy has been supporting people who are motivated to stop smoking with advice and medication. Stopping smoking will help patients fight COVID-19.
OOP: Have you noticed that people seem to be exercising more?
Dr McHugh: Exercise has definitely increased - exponentially. Many people who did very little prior to the lockdown are now taking regular exercise, walking, running - making the most of their time outdoors - even following along with exercise videos. Again, this is partly due to them having the time to reflect on their health and having time to do something about it. Not to mention the fact that everyone’s bored and desperate for things to do!!
OOP: Thank you for your time Dr McHugh. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr McHugh: There’s no doubt that things are bleak at the moment. There is a lot of anxiety but we have to focus on the positives. If you are feeling poorly, GPs surgeries are still open: if you need to be seen, you will be seen.