Wed | Dec 8, 2021

Telemedicine demand grows during pandemic – doctor

Published:Wednesday | October 28, 2020 | 12:16 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Gleaner Writer
Paul Clennon, chief executive officer, Ace Total Healthcare, bumps elbow with Peggy Poindexter, chief operating officer.
Paul Clennon, chief executive officer, Ace Total Healthcare, bumps elbow with Peggy Poindexter, chief operating officer.

Some Jamaicans, especially the elderly, are fearful of leaving their homes due to COVID-19, but one local company is ensuring that this fear does not cause a deterioration in health by providing access to doctors, nurses and other health professionals who offer home care and write prescriptions virtually.

Ace Total Healthcare was officially started by two military veterans in 2018, but it wasn’t until 2020 that the company started seeing a demand for its services. The company offers telemedicine services, doctor’s visits, at-home nursing care, and physiotherapists. They also offer companion care, so that those who need someone to stay with them during the day can benefit.

Owner of the company, Paul Clennon, said they currently have about 10 doctors making visits to homes to treat ill patients and write prescriptions. There is also the telemedicine option, which is available from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“People can access a doctor from the comfort of their home, via telephone or video chat. There is a secure video line we use,” said Clennon.

“A doctor can diagnose some illnesses by talking to the patient or looking at them through the video and accurately prescribe the medicine, or refer them for additional care,” he explained.

Clennon and his business partner, Peggy Poindexter, an air force veteran, also had a similar operation in the US prior to relocating to Jamaica to start this new venture together. Both had worked with the US army for more than 20 years.

COVID CAUSING CANCELLED DOCTOR VISITS

Preliminary findings from a study that was conducted by the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre, found that many of the island’s senior citizens have been cancelling doctor’s visits and other healthcare appointments in order to remain in the safety of their homes. Several were fearful that their medication for chronic illnesses will run out, and more than 60 per cent of them said they have not sought medical care since March, when the first case of COVID-19 was reported locally.

Clennon said that several senior citizens have sought to access the services Ace Total provides. One of the barriers he noted, however, is that some are not tech-savvy. They generally are able to get access to a doctor, however, once they are talked through the process via phone.

Although the fee to access a doctor via the telemedicine platform is $2,500, this is being waived for everyone over the age of 65 for all of October.

Medical practitioner Dr Glendee Reynolds said COVID-19 has pushed telemedicine in Jamaica.

“We have had quite a few telemedicine calls [from] persons who are afraid to come out, and they need their prescriptions to keep taking their sugar or their pressure medication. So they are at home, they are afraid, they don’t want to go to the doctor or the pharmacy, for that matter,” she said.

“We have had a few cancer patients. At a time like this, it is difficult to get them in a wheelchair, on a stretcher, [or] in an ambulance to go to a doctor. It is very cumbersome, worse now when there is risk of infection,” explained Dr Reynolds, who has been a doctor for over 14 years.

The physiotherapy service has been helping clients to regain their mobility, so they can move around freely at home.

“Sometimes, post-surgery, sometimes after an injury, after a stroke or something like that, Jamaicans don’t understand how important physiotherapy is to assist them in that regard, so having the physiotherapist being able to come to you is an advantage,” she said.

Director of Nursing at Ace Total Marcia Grosett-Brown supervises over 20 registered nurses, 16 practical nurses and three certified midwives who freelance their services.

“We send nurses into the homes. They go in to teach patients and caregivers how to take care of the patients and provide any kind of skill care that is needed, like the dressing of wounds, or giving an injection through an IV, or putting in catheter,” she explained.

They also do blood sugar testing, take care of people with feeding tube, and do general assessments and make recommendations for patients to see the doctor.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com