This WhatsApp helpline is just what the doctor ordered

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on August 02, 2019

Padmanabha Kamath studying an ECG posted on WhatsApp   -  AJ VINAYAK

A cardiologist’s initiative is helping the needy get free guidance

For Padmanabha Kamath, an interventional cardiologist from Mangaluru, WhatsApp is not just another communication tool. He uses it as a helpline to offer guidance to anybody, anywhere.

Kamath told BusinessLine that he has got 200 queries on the helpline since its launch two weeks ago. Of them, five patients with heart-attack symptoms were directed to a nearby hospital for further treatment.

Citing an instance, Kamath said a paramedic aged around 35 from Chamarajanagar, Karnataka, consulted a general practitioner after he developed chest pain. The doctor asked him to go for an ECG (electrocardiography) test.

The paramedic, who had come across Kamath’s helpline through social media, posted the ECG on the helpline on Friday, mentioning the symptoms. As the ECG readings were not normal, Kamath asked him to meet a cardiologist in Mysuru. Further tests by the cardiologist revealed a block in the heart.

Stating that the paramedic will undergo angioplasty now, Kamath said the patient was happy with the fact that he could get proper and timely guidance on his situation from a doctor in Mangaluru.

Not a substitute

However, Kamath clarified that the helpline is not a substitute to a doctor’s examination. A doctor has his/her own value. A doctor cannot report without seeing a patient. The helpline initiative is just to give a guidance. “This helpline is not a substitute, it is only a supplement.”

Stating that this service is free of cost, Kamath said he uses the ‘WhatsApp for Business’ app for the helpline. (Helpline No: 9743287599). “What I have done is the extrapolation of an app for helping people. This has been used to the fullest. It is free for all,” he said, adding that a major portion of the country’s population has access to WhatsApp now.

He suggested that companies can use this model for CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives.

“When I can extend my guidance to 200 people in two weeks, based out of Mangaluru, imagine the impact when a corporate replicates this model on a bigger scale with many more cardiologists.” .

Kamath, who is a surgeon and professor in a medical college hospital, also runs WhatsApp groups for doctors in primary health centres (PHCs) and private clinics.

Through his Cardiology at Doorstep (CAD) WhatsApp groups, he has taken steps to install ECG machines in PHCs and private clinics in rural areas to help diagnose heart problems and provide assistance to doctors over WhatsApp. Doctors at these PHCs and private clinics record ECGs and share them on the WhatsApp group for expert opinion.

Recently, Kamath also started an initiative to distribute troponin assay kits for rapid detection of heart attack in rural PHCs where ECG machines are not available.

Published on August 03, 2019

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