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Primary Care Physicians are on the Front Line of Battle Against COVID-19

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While we concentrate on medical pandemic experts and public health officials for prognostications about the Coronavirus pandemic, primary care physicians are often on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.
They frequently go unnoticed by the pundits and the policymakers.
They are the “unsung heroes” of this fight, says Dr. Kenneth H. Johnson, the Executive Dean of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the chief medical affairs officer at Ohio University.
Often, the primary care doctor is the first to determine whether a patient needs tested for the Coronavirus and handles the initial care of a patient.
More often, today, these initial decisions about care are made through telemedicine techniques including internet conversations and phone conferences, according to Dr. Johnson. This is a major change from the old method of going into an office to see a doctor.
The primary care physician routinely is in charge of a patient’s care before and after any hospitalization.
The frontline doctor also may be making choices about prescribing drugs for “compassionate use” to help patients in desperate need for relief, noted Dr. Johnson. This is a huge responsibility that is often placed on the primary care provider because the drugs may be originally designed and intended for a different use.
Dr. Johnson also describes how medical education is changing because of the pandemic.
He tells how medical schools have pulled their students from clinical situations for their safety. This does not apply to interns or resident doctors.
Medical school curricula also have converted to remote and online learning in lieu of being physically present for experiential learning. Medical students also are receiving a healthy dose of education about this particular virus and its evolving nature.
Dr. Johnson is the current chair of the Ohio Council of Medical School Deans.