You are muted
Life has changed for all of us in 2020 with humanity facing one of its biggest challenges. With the roll out of two effective vaccines in the UK, we may slowly be heading towards a time when we eventually win the challenge.
One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rise of tele-consultations and platforms such as Zoom and Teams amongst others. They have transformed the way patients and doctors interact with each other. A number of these platforms have also been used to host international medical meetings which normally happen face to face every year.
I remember nearly a decade ago, when as the 10th Editor in Chief of the British Journal of Urology International, I had mentioned to my editorial team about the possibility of developing an online meeting platform similar to Zoom, that would over a couple of days provide all the knowledge and academic interaction across time zones. It would save travel, time and expense. The participants would receive continuing medical education points from their sofas or offices. Those from low or middle income countries who are often unable to travel overseas would benefit the most. And the best effect would be a reduction in our own carbon footprints thus helping save our beautiful planet.
Everyone laughed at me!
It seems people go to meetings not just to learn and interact but to enjoy a drink, conversations and handshakes with their friends. To many that was the essence of traditional meetings across the globe. And you cannot reproduce that online. If you also want to see the city hosting the meeting that you have never visited before, there is only one way - to actually get there. No amount of photographs or webcams can ever make up for the real experience.
So back to remote patient consultations. We have widely adopted to that and can consult with you on an online platform that you are familiar with. I have had to learn “tele-charisma” an entirely new term in my dictionary. And if online platforms are not your thing, then the good old telephone works equally well and we can always speak although we can’t see each other. Many surveys show that patient satisfaction after tele-consultations is nearly 90%. While we cannot examine our patients, we can rely on history taking and tests such as imaging as effective alternatives. Having an essential operation of course still needs hospital attendance which is done in all COVID precautions.
There is a funny side to all this. As a result of Zoom and Teams the commonest three words in use today are - “you are muted”. This happens when the speaker mutes the sound on his/her computer while using an online platform and speaks without being heard! Someone else has to tell them that this is the case followed by much mirth and unmuting so that the conversation can again flow freely.
Unfortunately ill health does not wait for any virus and urological problems that need attention continue to arise. We are still busy and ready to serve you. If you wish to have a tele-consultation or a telephone consultation please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you the best of health in 2021.
Professor of Surgery