I was watching a film a few weeks ago with my teenage children, an invitation that I receive infrequently.
It was a Disney production, The Black Panther and as expected, it had all the exciting special effects and prominent themes of good versus evil.
It turned out to be more entertaining than I imagined. It was pure escapism, which I revelled in, and a welcomed distraction to the continual coronavirus news.
Shortly after the film ended, I realised the lead actor Chadwick Boseman passed away in August 2020 at the young age of 43. He had been battling colon cancer.
I immediately thought of this very sad passing and, as a doctor, wondered what some of his symptoms were that maybe could have been diagnosed earlier.
National Health informative programmes have taught us when we should see a GP – times like when we have a persistent cough, a mole that has changed colour or we’re passing blood in our urine.
The human body is so complex with its reaction to disease that making a list of symptoms in which you should consult the GP would be endless.
We need to be more in touch with our health and recognise when something is just not right. The GP-patient dialogue is a sacred tradition of practice. It’s a discussion, and the medical diagnosis hinges around it and also a general physical examination.
There is one other factor that helps in early diagnosis, the time between the symptoms and consulting your GP.
Generally, symptoms that pass quickly reassure us that the natural body homeostasis is returning.
For example, a sore throat that resolves after a few days could be normal but not after 2 weeks.
Additionally, a change in bowel habit (i.e., loose stool) that is persisting warrants a discussion with your doctor.
Due to coronavirus, the process of visiting the family doctor has changed and has led to the evolution of the digital consultation.
In 2020, development and refinement of video consultations accelerated in response to increasing demand, complementing the delivery of GP services in the age of COVID-19.
It is a tool that is both useful and efficient.
A recent British Medical Journal article reported that the standard of care given via a video appointment is good and, in some cases, even improved patient satisfaction.
However, sometimes we do need to see a patient in person to have ‘360 degree’ contact and that is fine as most GP practices offer this.
Ultimately, video GP appointments give patients more choice and more control when seeing a GP.
One spinoff effect of 2020 was the increased awareness of having and maintaining good health, both physical and mental.
Actively making improvements in diet and finding novel ways to exercise like online fitness programmes.
Moreover, preventative health care measures such as health screenings are another facet in understanding your health and could complement your new embarked lifestyle.
There is a vast variety of health screens available ranging from having a simple blood test to having a complete body scan.
Hybrid health screening involving a medical examination and targeted investigation could provide valuable feedback to patients who are, for example, embarking on a change in lifestyle such as weight management.
It is not merely a life snapshot as the extended appointment gives the patient an opportunity to address any concerns, he or she may have.
It could be useful to discuss any family medical history and perhaps screening investigations such as colonoscopy for bowel cancer screening. Mental health can also be assessed.
The use of a phone health app has also been welcomed universally. This further facilitates communication, and personal health information literally at our fingertips.
The face of GP consultations and the ways of communication have been irrevocably modified by events of the last year and patient demand has changed.
This is medical evolution.
To your health,
Dr Mark R Armoogum