Since launching in late March, Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) urgent consultation telemedicine service has received close to 160,000 calls, with doctors at the telephone-based service answering upwards of 1,000 calls each day.
Head of Urology at HMC Dr Khalid al-Rumaihi who is managing the Urgent Consultation Center says due to its popularity and efficiency the service will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
“This service was launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We wanted to ensure the safety of both patients and our staff and the urgent consultation telemedicine service has enabled us to keep patients, particularly those who are most vulnerable to severe Covid-19 illness, out of our clinics and out of the emergency department,” said Dr al-Rumaihi.
“The hotline has been operating for just over six months now and while we are happy that patients are taking advantage of this service, this service is for non-life-threatening conditions and it is not a replacement for regular outpatient clinics,” said Dr al-Rumaihi.
“Patients who require hospital-based care must not delay receiving it, especially in cases of a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke.Delaying treatment for these conditions can be life-threatening or lead to serious complications. We are taking every possible precaution to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our hospitals and clinics and staff follow strict guidelines, including universal masking, screening at all entrances, and frequent disinfecting of waiting areas, consultation rooms, restrooms, and surfaces,” added Dr al-Rumaihi.
He says the free, confidential service is currently staffed by 20 doctors who are providing advice across 15 specialities. He says since the physician-led service was launched they have seen the greatest demand for general medicine, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, and cardiology-related queries.
“Around 60% of calls received are from patients who have medication-related requests. Doctors who answer calls provide health-related advice, information and assess symptoms. They can also help patients determine if they need to see a doctor in one of our outpatient clinics. Our doctors can provide direct referrals to the emergency department and outpatient departments,” said Dr al-Rumaihi.
“The urgent consultation telephone service has helped to reduce the burden on emergency services and is allowing us to keep otherwise healthy patients away from the hospital. This service has allowed us to bridge a gap by helping ensure patients who need care are directed to the right place,” said Dr al-Rumaihi.
The Urgent Consultation Service is available to any member of the public and can be accessed by calling 16000 between 8am and 7pm, Saturday to Thursday.