How has COVID-19 affected our clinic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made many people suspicious of human contact. Most healthcare interventions are conducted in close proximity between patient and practitioner. Osteopathy is a hands-on physical therapy and, probably, involves more human contact than other forms of healthcare intervention. For this very reason, most osteopaths have temporarily closed their clinics during lockdown even though healthcare visits are allowed within the current social distancing restrictions. The potential risk to the community from face-to-face appointments was not justifiable whilst the rate of COVID-19 disease was heading towards its peak.
What have our team been doing during lockdown?
We spent some of our lockdown time training and developing telemedicine skills so we can be as effective remotely as we are face to face. Telehealth appointments will be very valuable to people who continue to shield post lockdown. Also, we have many fans that don't live in Ealing. Telemedicine appointment will help reduce the need for people to travel to us.
The team has kept in touch with our community and offered free telephone / video consultations to get acute patients out of pain during the lockdown period. Our experience of telemedicine appointments using video calls have proved very effective at rapidly reducing symptoms in acute episodes of lower back pain.
Some members of the team have also registered interest in working with the NHS and are waiting to hear back.
Our team is determined to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever because:
• The NHS will still need to prioritise COVID-19 cases and emergency care into the next 12 to 24 months (my estimate).
• The community will therefore need to find other sources of muscular-skeletal care, especially, as many physiotherapists have been re-deployed to help with the COVID-19 crisis.
• COVID-19 survivors may require help with their breathing mechanics and/or post viral syndromes. Osteopaths can play an important role in this.
However, our Osteopathy clinic must first:
• Secure finance to survive lockdown and re-launch our service. The government grants are helpful but will not keep the wolves from the door for long.
• Develop a strong re-launch plan. The plan must be robust enough to keep us operational in the forseeable future. The re-launch plan will also need funding.
• Modify our service delivery to keep our team and the community safe. This will include running at a significantly reduced capacity for at least 12 months, which will be an additional financial challenge.
• Make use of video/phone consultations to reduce the reliance on face-to-face contact.
• Invest in personal protection equipment (PPE) and additional infection control materials and labour. The NHS must be prioritised for PPE stocks. Also the shortage of PPE supply is driving up the costs of essential consumables. Therefore we are doing some creative thinking to source moderate supplies and find sustainable alternatives.
The challenges ahead.
As an independent healthcare provider, we believe that our role in the community will continue to be very important whilst COVID-19 cases are on the decrease. COVID-19 will affect the health of more people than will actually contract the disease. Currently there are many people who cannot access primary or secondary healthcare. In the case of muscular and skeletal health, for example, a painful knee left untreated now could cause avoidable problems in the future.
How you will benefit by paying it forward with us ?
We have an amazing challenge ahead of us, and our team wants to be part of the continuing story. You can help fund us by buying consultation/treatment vouchers in advance, to be redeemed at any time after we re-open. These pay-it forward vouchers are at a special price to say thank-you for your support. There will be no expiry date on these vouchers. You may also gift the vouchers to family and friends. The ultimate benefit of paying forward with us is to help secure the survival of the clinic at this critical time.