Across Ontario, family physicians have become experts at adaptation, responding with agility to the constant disruptions of COVID-19. Their efforts go above and beyond to serve the top priority: delivering the highest quality care to patients, no matter what.
As the province strives to limit the spread of COVID-19 and distribute vaccines, family doctors have stepped up – not only supporting vaccination efforts but also innovating their practices to continue serving their communities and to help relieve the strain on hospitals. Here are some of their stories.
With clinicians drowning in electronic and paper information, Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia turned to the insurance and banking industries for inspiration. The Kitchener-Waterloo family doctor, a leader in the field of Digital Health, found that the use of bots and artificial intelligence helped reduce time-consuming and repetitive tasks by about 30 per cent.
Along with his team at the eHealth Centre of Excellence, Dr. Alarakhia created automated software that replicates the actions of a human — a bot he calls “Bernie” — to help physicians and their staff reduce the number of manual tasks they must perform.
“I think about the COVID-19 pandemic. How do clinicians easily identify high-risk patients for assessment or vaccination without a lot of manual effort?” he asks. “Having a bot do that would be extremely helpful.”
By automating information management in medical clinics, such as flagging when appointments are due or following up on test results, Dr. Alarakhia says physicians can spend more time with patients and less time on paperwork. “Bernie burns out so clinicians don’t have to.”
Source: CMA Joule, April 7, 2021
Public Health measures bring restrictions that can be a barrier to patient care. Dr. Patricia Mouaikel of Ottawa recounts a particularly poignant case. “I have dealt with a particularly challenging situation where one of my patients became palliative during the pandemic, and since he was hard of hearing, I was not able to communicate with him via telephone.”
Conducting appointments virtually, through the patient’s daughter, who herself was not allowed into the retirement home, was emotionally draining for everyone, says Dr. Mouaikel. But perseverance paid off. “Luckily, the palliative care team was able to make sure that my patient passed away peacefully at home. The family was very appreciative of the care my patient received, despite the challenges that we encountered.”
Teamwork is key, including the nurses, administrators, and specialists who spend thousands of hours connecting with patients in clinics or at home.
“More than ever, this whole experience has been a team effort, and without each and everyone’s help we would not have been able to continue being there for our patients. I am very grateful for each and everyone on our team.”