It started with the interrogation over the phone.
‘Had I been overseas recently?’ the receptionist queried. “Had I been in contact with anyone who has, and have I got flu-like symptoms?’
Um, no, actually I just have a funny looking mole I need checked.
‘Right, yes, you can still come in but if you don’t have a mask you’ll have to wait outside until someone comes out to give you one.’
Once inside, the feeling of dread and general unease closed tighter; waiting room eyes furtively glance my way assessing whether I’m a carrier, every second waiting room chair is taped off as a no-go zone, and the clinic phones are incessantly ringing with queries about flu shots.
Seemingly overnight, our friendly neighbourhood GP has turned into a place to avoid at all costs.
The Guardian reports that a survey of 175 GPs conducted by specialist health publication The Medical Republic found about half had lost more than 30% of their revenue.
The Government is hoping renewed investment in Teleheath, in which you have a phone call or video chat with your doctor from the comfort of your own home, is one answer, boosting the Medicare-funded support by $1.1billion.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has also just launched a month-long nationwide campaign to stop people from neglecting their health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The campaign, Expert Advice Matters, aims to show people why now, more than ever, they need to take care of their health and see their GP for any health issues.
A website, www.expertadvicematters.com.au, has also been set up with straightforward, practical advice for patients on how they can get a consultation with their GP on the telephone or online using videoconferencing platforms, as well as face-to-face.
Brisbane-based Dr Elliot Smith, the brains behind an online prostate cancer tester called Maxwell Plus, tells us many people are postponing health checks that could prove deadly if left unchecked for too long.
“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men, claiming more lives than breast cancer, often because of late diagnosis,” said Dr Smith, who invented the prostate testing tool after being frustrated by his father’s experience with conventional options [he later got the all clear].
“So now is not the time to be complacent and worry about it once COVID-19 comes to an end, as no one knows when that might be.
Skin cancer, bowel cancer and other cancers can also be deadly if not regularly tested for and diagnosed early, he added.
“Likewise diabetes and high cholesterol can lead to health complications if left unmanaged.
“There are a lot of options available to Australians wanting to be tested, keeping them in touch with a doctor whilst maintaining social distancing.”
Dr Smith says Telehealth has never been more affordable, or easier to access and implores mid-life Australians to consider using it to keep on top of regular health checks that could end up saving their life, including:
Australian men over 40 can sign up to Maxwell Plus. Using an artificial intelligence algorithm it’s team of doctors assesses patient data including; age, family history, race, present and prior PSA blood test results to determine the risk of prostate cancer and gives recommendations based on international prostate cancer testing guidelines overlaid with artificial intelligence.
There are mobile apps on the market for skin cancer diagnosis – users submit photos of the potentially malignant spot, then this is sent to a network of Australian doctors for diagnosis. Some examples are MoleScope by MetaOptima and SkinVision.
The national bowel cancer screening program delivers a test right to your door which is done in the comfort of your own home and posted back for screening. If detected early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in more than 90% of cases. https://www.cancer.nsw.gov.au/dothetest
All Australians are able to consult their GP over the phone and access new coronavirus-specific mental health support under a new $1.1 billion package.
About Dr Elliot Smith
Dr Elliot Smith is the founder of Maxwell Plus, backed by CSIRO, a telehealth platform focused on the diagnosis of prostate cancer which, since its launch in 2019, has already tested over 500 men and made over 1000 clinical recommendations across Australia, including the discovery of six early stage prostate cancers that had the potential to be missed by conventional human based testing.