The dedication of medical staff in wartime has been echoed in recent events, as has the possibility of medical progress.
Very little about the Covid-19 pandemic could be considered good news, with untold fatalities, long term effects on health and damage to society. There are still elements which will bring medical benefits.
Treatment of war casualties in the 19th century led to better understanding of cross infection, advances in facial surgery arose from the first world war. The use of antibiotics developed significantly in the second world war.
Our latest worldwide intrusion has also been a catalyst for change, with a significant focus on technology and communication.
Testing for coronavirus within society is a visible example and more medical options have moved into the home. They can be pandemic specific, such as oximeters to monitor oxygen levels, or for wider testing.
Portable devices which combine a stethoscope, thermometer and camera are becoming readily available, others help to analyse heart, or lung function. They can be used by patients at home, or a paramedic, or nurse during a visit.
Covid-19 has accelerated their use and development, by making funding available, alongside an atmosphere where experimentation is more acceptable. The possibility of failure less vital than a need for success.
Within society, we are seeing technology and medicine join, through smartphone apps, or wearable biosensors. The basis of communication is also changing.
Video technology and conference calls have been around for some time, although before Covid arrived, nearly all medical appointments were face to face. Within weeks, that switched to the majority being by phone, or video call.
An ideal way to maintain social distancing and convenient for patients. No travel, parking, waiting, or unwanted contact, also a perfect answer for anyone with restricted movement, or feeling unwell.
There can be downsides, for people with restricted hearing, those not familiar with the technology, or lacking access. Neither is this type of visit the ideal way to discuss serious, life changing issues.
Limits exist for clinicians using remote technology, the benefits of a physical examination not available, interaction not quite the same. Even so, the majority of cases can be dealt with and initial, diagnostic needs be met for almost all.
Clinic, or hospital appointments are reduced, patients in hospital can go home earlier, yet still be monitored. Ultimately, every patient benefits from freed resources, yet keeping all options available remains important.
Virtual Or Real World
Some patients will quite naturally not feel comfortable with a virtual visit and this should’t be imposed on them. In other cases, there will be sound medical reasons for a real world appointment, for treatment, or diagnosis.
The confocal laser we use to look beneath your skin is an example, not feasible online but a good way to avoid physical samples being needed via biopsies. The same would apply to modern surgery, or treatment with lasers.
Technology helps physical medicine as well, not least with prompt detection and treatment for skin cancers. Teledermatology appointments can however save vital time, as a need for further investigation is identified.
A rational view is that using available technology makes sense, depending on individual circumstances. Patient needs, their feelings and medical best practice should be the basis of all decisions.
As wars did in the past, Covid-19 has brought change which will stay with us. As long as we use this in the right way, our health will be the ultimate winner.