The current lockdown has created a number of challenges for Filipinos, and online communities have formed to help alleviate the situation—from the youth sharing tips on grocery shopping and cooking to a Facebook group that lets you buy canceled orders and save delivery guys.
With enhanced community quarantine in place, public transportation has been suspended, preventing many from reaching the hospital. And on top of that, many clinics have closed as doctors refocus their efforts on the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, a number of sick or concerned citizens can't go to the hospital unless it's an emergency, causing quite a few to panic and worry about their health and the health of their loved ones. To address this problem, a group of volunteer doctors have launched a Facebook group called Doctors Online Consultation for Filipinos (DOC) to address the needs of non-emergency cases-completely, one hundred percent, for free.
In this pro bono bayanihan initiative, doctors are helping doctors.
"Ginawa rin po ang grupong ito bilang tulong sa mga kasamahan namin sa mga ospital sa buong bansa, na ngayon ay mas nakafocus din sa ibang mga emergency situations bukod sa COVID-19," says the group description. "Nais po namin na mapagaan ang trabaho nila sa pamamagitan ng pagsagot at konsultasyon online ng mga medikal na kasong hindi emergency, ngunit nangangailangan rin na matugunan."
The group, while formed by volunteer doctors, is not affiliated with any institution, hospital, or university. Let us just emphasize again that every consultation is free: "Lahat po ng konsultasyon ay LIBRE at wala po kaming hinahanap o hinihingi na kahit anong kapalit. Ito po ay isang bayanihan sa panahon ng krisis sa ating bansa at sa buong mundo."
If you need to consult with a doctor regarding a non-emergency situation, such as a sprained ankle, a light burn, or pregnancy concerns, drop a message in the group. But follow the guidelines to make sure a doctor can help you.
How does it work?
After clicking "Join Group," you'll have to wait for an admin doctor to approve your request. Before posting your case in the group, make sure to read the guidelines, which iterate that: only doctors can respond to questions, patients cannot post pictures of results, no bad words or political topics are allowed, among others.
After agreeing with the guidelines, patients must sign a telemedicine consent form, which you can read here. Then, patients can post their cases in the group, detailing 1) the primary complaint and 2) the age of the patient. For example: Ubo, 34 years old.
Patients must then patiently wait for a doctor to reply to the post, stating that they will be messaging them privately. From there, the doctor and patient can talk in a private coversation. It might take a few hours or days, and the group asks for patience as they receive around 500 cases a day for only a handful of their doctors.
The free online clinic is only open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
DOC is only for non-emergency cases. For COVID-19 related cases, the Lung Center of the Philippines has developed its own online consultation platform for those who suspect they might have COVID-19 symptoms. There are also a number of telemedicine applications and websites that offer consultations and prescriptions, although these require a fee.
For now, DOC is the only (or perhaps just the most popular) free online clinic created by volunteer doctors who are, in a way, making their own heroic contributions to this pandemic.