TELECONSULTING: “DEEP BREATH IN” – THE BMJ LAUNCHES A NEW PODCAST

The BMJ’s new podcast aims to help doctors feel more connected, heard, and supported

“Deep breath in … and out. Again, deep breath in … and out.”

We tune in to patients’ breath sounds, seeking confirmation of a diagnosis—one more supporting piece of evidence to reassure anxious patients or to narrow the differential.

But since the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic arrived, saying “deep breath in” has been replaced by the need to take one ourselves: before looking at the morning news, before venturing out (or logging on) to work each morning, and before ringing the next patient on your list with the ominous note alongside their name: “fever and cough for a week, now feeling breathless.” Although chosen in what seems like a different era, the name for The BMJ’s new podcast for general practitioners—Deep Breath In—seems fitting for our troubled times.

Rebooting general practice

Before anyone in Wuhan fell ill, GPs had already been feeling the strain. In the UK, despite government promises of 5000 new practising GPs by 2020, there were 6.2% fewer full time equivalent GPs in 2019 than in 2015.1 Similarly, physicians in the US have been compensating for an estimated shortfall of some 14 500 primary care doctors since 2017.2 Recent attempts to take the strain off GPs in England by funding allied health professionals have faltered because of onerous new demands on fledgling primary care networks.3 Turning it off and switching it back on again is often the only thing that works when your computer grinds to a halt. Perhaps coronavirus will do the same for primary care.

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COMMENTARY

Primary Care Physicians are a vanishing species [1]. This is unfortunate, since PCPs are the only doctors who attend the whole field of Medicine (have you ever asked an orthopedist about your cough?).

However, some of the slack is being taken up by Nurse Practitioners [2] and Physicians Assistants [3].

If you know a retired Internist or Family Practice Physician, be sure to cultivate a friendly relationship (and give them a hug when the Covid 19 epidemic cools off). They might be inclined to be that greatest of all Medical Resources- the Patient Advocate [4].

—Dr. C.

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