My Initial Thoughts
When the circuit breaker measures were first announced, I initially felt that it spelled disaster and total chaos, having to first close the clinic for a month and then another further month of extension.
It meant that our patients and parents were unable to access our help and services for a prolonged period of time. My first thought was the health and well-being of my patients as most of them are babies and young children. For them, time is of the essence as there is only a golden window for their treatment; two months in a baby’s life means a lot in terms of growth and development.
We also support many patients who have conditions such as stroke, scoliosis, cerebral palsy and other multiple disabilities that need our help for their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living), which can deteriorate if they don’t get timely appropriate treatment.
On the other hand, we saw how hard our government was working; the great extent and efforts that they have taken to ensure the safety of all Singaporeans and people living in Singapore.
We wanted to play a part in supporting the government and help curb the virus transmission by stopping people from leaving their houses. It was a very tough battle to overcome in my heart.
A Month into Circuit Breaker
It was a small relief to me when the government gradually zoned us as part of the ‘essential services’ sector and allowed us to see six patients a week. Many patients were long overdue for their review appointments and it was coming to a point of being very uncomfortable for them.
Our patients and parents were very appreciative of the fact that we are able to see them while taking very stringent social distancing measures to ensure their safety. However, due to the limits set on the number of patients that we could see, we were unable to assist many more who also needed our urgent help.
My Thoughts Post Circuit Breaker
Before Covid-19, there were times when we did some tele-consultations for our overseas patients, but now it seems that we have to gradually get used to doing tele-consults for even some of our local Singaporean patients.
We use video-conferencing tools such as Zoom, WhatsApp etc., as well as phone calls and e-mails to monitor their well-being and progress, giving advice, providing consultation and even diagnosis.
However, tele-consultations always have limitations as we cannot physically feel, see and touch our patients; which is the most important part of our clinical training in order to diagnose and treat patients.
Our profession is unique as we supply our patients with an orthosis (physical medical device) to help them, unlike Physiotherapy or Speech Therapies; which means that our services cannot always be done remotely.
Moving forward, I think technology can play a part in shaping the industry by perhaps using suitable mobile applications or platforms for accurate clinical diagnosis remotely to expand the use of tele-consulting.
This may be able to help us better and more accurately help out some patients that may not need to be physically present in the clinic and allow us to be able to reach out and help more patients.
One thing’s for sure – my role as an orthotist will most definitely still need the ‘human touch’ and can almost never be replaced virtually.
Principal Orthotist and Co-Founder, Orthopaedia