Chronic disease management: our best bet

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Laiba Ali, a second year medical student at Allama Iqbal Medical College. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Chronic disease management is an arduous task, even in the absence of an impending affliction to the healthcare system. Not only has the prevalence of chronic diseases taken a turn for the worse during the pandemic, it has brought to light the deep-rooted inadequacies and shortcomings of the healthcare system. Evidence suggests several factors contributing to this, like the fear of contracting COVID-19 causing patients to avoid routine checkups, the increased indulgence in risky health behaviors, or the inability to manage the diseases at an adequate time, and the consequent increased need for monitoring the patients being just a few of the aforementioned contributors.

Our healthcare systems have a fundamental role to play here, probably even the most significant part and it is therefore, imperative, that we make efforts to bring about change and improvement. First and foremost, better integration of digital health services to the existing facilities will help deal with quite a few primary concerns. Patients could be monitored remotely and consultations and routine checkups could take place without the need of in-person visits, maintaining physical capacity in health care units for critical cases. This will also assuage patients’ safety concerns, supporting better physical as well as psychological health of the diseased. Secondly, there is a need to distribute the tasks and responsibilities in primary health care more efficiently. Some countries have broadened what the traditional responsibilities of a pharmacist entail and it has allowed the doctors to utilise their efforts and time more effectively. For example, in Scotland, pharmacists managed to provide for more patients via the extension of Minor Ailment Service (MAS) to reduce the burden across the NHS and ensure patients continue to get the necessary medicines.

While we shed light on the involvement of healthcare workers, we must consider the capacity in which we, as medical students, can be involved in the effort to reinvent healthcare during the pandemic. The role of a medical student is not limited to the acquiring of knowledge, but also entails their training as physicians. During the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, medical students at the University of Pennsylvania cared for patients in the capacity of physicians. There are numerous ways in which this can be implemented in light of the ongoing pandemic. For example, students can assist with the routine checkups required for chronic patients, reducing the burden and avoiding risk to retired physicians whose age makes them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Also, the aforementioned use of telemedicine could further reduce the risk of transmission, making this a favorable solution. Moreover, learners can help educate the general public with factual and authentic information, owing to their close association with the clinical sector; so there is better awareness among the patients and attendants about the conditions.

To conclude, we can only overcome the difficulties we face in managing chronic diseases if we collaborate with one another in the medical fraternity and optimize the available facilities. This is our best bet.

About the author

Laiba Ali is a second year medical student at Allama Iqbal Medical College. She is affiliated with
IFMSA Pakistan. She has a penchant for media, and is looking for ways to integrate her love for
medicine and media, of which writing is one of the stepping stones.

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