We wrote a blog on life as a dermatologist in Melbourne early in the year and posted it in February. But since then, things have changed. Things have changed dramatically. Our routines, traditions, home and work life have all been acutely challenged by COVID-19. Social distancing measures have been wedged between us and our usual lives with the hope that we can control the spread and flatten the curve. The ultimate aim – to rediscover our freedom and get back to ‘normal’ life.
Today, the life of a dermatologist in Melbourne is very different to what it was even 10 weeks ago.
At Chroma Dermatology, we started screening patients for symptoms like cough and fever in late January and gradually escalated infection control measures each week as the situation evolved. We introduced pre-appointment screening and text message alerts, spaced chairs in the waiting room, removed all materials and toys from our reception area, asked patients sanitize their hands upon arrival and ensured the doors remained open for minimum physical contact with surfaces. We also commenced wearing gloves, eye protection and masks for all patient interactions. These are just some of the measures we have taken to try to keep our patients safe. We have also informed the Chroma community with information on how to care for your skin during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the greatest changes we decided to implement was in our connectivity with our patients. We wanted to be able to continue caring for our patients in the comfort and safety of their homes. While Chroma Dermatology remained open and continued to welcome patients for urgent issues and things that need to be seen in person, we commenced online consultations (telehealth) in mid-March. At the peak of the crisis here in Melbourne, telehealth accounted for between 70-80% of our patient encounters. Out of several hundreds of consultations online, there have been two or three connectivity issues (which we quickly resolved). Our patients loved the interaction and appreciated the convenience and the personal touches from our reception team. Prior to COVID-19, an online dermatologist consultation would have been unheard of for those living in the suburbs of Melbourne. We are happy with the quality of care our dermatologists been able to deliver throughout this time and are pleased with the access our patients have to us in person when they needed it.
Online consultations provide a safe and comfortable way to connect our dermatologists with patients in challenging circumstances. It has been embraced by patients and the community near and far. The pandemic has opened our eyes to the ease and efficiency of these kinds of consultations for some skin issues and I am sure we will continue to offer this for appropriate patients and situations.
Public hospitals are also embracing telehealth with most dermatology consultations being run virtually in most hospitals. Research continues but patients enrolled in clinical trials will continue to be updated with new and emerging evidence about how COVID-19 may affect their trial and drug therapy. Chroma Dermatology’s outreach work with Fiji will continue, via remote education to local trainee doctors.
Dermatologists in Melbourne are working hard to ensure they continue to deliver the best possible care despite the circumstances. Dermatologists in Melbourne understand the difficulties we all face in our families and workplaces. Dermatologists in Melbourne are mums, dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. They are working through their personal and professional challenges like the rest of Melbourne and our global community – childcare, remote education and taking care of elderly family members. While the coronavirus pandemic has presented the world with challenges, it has also offered us an opportunity to reflect, re-invigorate and re-prioritise. We know that the Melbourne skin and dermatology landscape will be forever be changed, in a positive way, by COVID-19.
We would like to thank all our wonderful patients and stakeholders for their ongoing support, for trusting us to care for your skin needs and for embracing the measures we have taken to deliver socially responsible care to you and your loved ones at this time.