Innovation quashing conventional views during a pandemic

Dr. Harsha Jayakody

(MBBS (Sri Lanka), MBA in Health Admin (Malaysia), MSc in Biomedical Informatics (Sri Lanka)
1390 Coronavirus Hotline

“I have always wanted to do something innovative and contribute to society from a young age. This was the primary reason why I started ‘MyDoctor’, a telemedicine platform back in 2012. But in Sri Lanka, people do not trust these systems,” says Dr Harsha (38). However, conventional views started to change with the onset of the pandemic and telemedicine was getting traction. “People were panicking and were plagued with doubts. By calling the coronavirus hotline, they could get help from a credible source which was updated by the Ministry of Health.” Being able to access information, particularly in an emergency, is essential in saving lives and livelihoods.

The hotline was operating 24/7, attending a high volume of calls. In April alone, they received over 50,000 calls. This was possible due to a relentless team of doctors who manned the hotline screening patients with both Covid and non-Covid symptoms. Often they had to give emotional support for those who were struggling with anxiety and panic. So what happens when a suspected case of Covid-19 emerges? Dr Harsha says, “Hospitals island-wide are registered in the system. So wherever there was a case, we could arrange an ambulance, or inform relevant hospitals, the MOH and PHI, and facilitate the needful. This will allow hospital staff to take the necessary precautions when receiving this patient.”

“The best moment for me was when we identified our first positive Covid patient through our screening,” reminisces Dr Harsha. “This was a great sense of achievement as we knew the system we had in place was working and we were helping to reduce the impact of the pandemic in our country through this platform.”