Reflections on the ‘Doctors-On-App’ WhatsApp groups

People often present with ailments only at advanced stages, making it difficult to achieve effective remedy


By Psychotherapist – Mertha Mo Nyamande


The initiative by Rudo Zvobgo to open Doctors on App – WhatsApp groups, a platform that allows for not only doctors and Nurses, but various other practitioners to volunteer medical advice is an uncharted territory that has raised various moral, legal and societal issues that developing societies need to look at closely.

The focus is mainly on triage assessments, homely remedies and signposting seemingly urgent cases as appropriate.

The fact that these groups have been opened and are full in a matter of hours and pushing the administrators to open more to a current total of 21 groups of 257 people in each, opened in a space of a couple of weeks highlights the gravity of need and the issue of responsive and accessibility of health information and services in the country.

There are also issues of affordability/cost effectiveness of safe and effective health services as there are no verification on those providing the support and advise on these platforms, who may often be licensed to practice in different geographical expanse.

While developed countries have health insurances and National Health Services to cater for the problems that developing nations struggle with.

People often present with ailments only at advanced stages, making it difficult to achieve effective remedy, leading to either surgery or loss of life/limb.

A community limited to dependency

From the theme of problems presented on these platforms, one can see that we are a community limited to dependency in our thinking, despite our literacy rates and claims of being most educated.

Some of the common problems raised have been Acid Reflux or GARD, Headaches, Fertility issues and some few mental health issues related to Anxiety and Depression.

More of the Anxiety issues presented with highlighted issues around Covid-19 and various misconceptions and conspiracies being peddled without clear and researched information, especially around the pandemic and its treatments, particularly homely remedies.

In mental health, we work on the Strategy there is “No Health without Mental Health”, which forms the basis for all health problems in that most of our health problems stem from our habits and lack of balance in those habits.

If we are to look at any health problem that requires surgery, for example, we will find that it could have been avoided, had certain psychosocial interventions been implemented early in the illness’s history; hernias, strokes, asthmas, piles/hemorrhoids, dementias, etc.

The importance of early detection and intervention

The importance of early detection and intervention. More research is required in some of these presentations.

We also find that problems of headaches presented are actually symptoms than problems themselves. We understand that there are 3 main causes for headaches; Strain/Tension, Dehydration, and Organic Trauma.

So when you hear someone presenting that they have been struggling with migraines for years, we understand this to be a tension headache, often stemming from stress and or anxiety or perhaps they simply don’t drink or eat enough of hydrating substances that will then require life long medications or more complex medical interventions further down the line due to the damages caused over time.

We also find that haemorrhoids/piles and acid refluxes are strongly associated with poor dietary intakes and or food allergies, some of which contribute to constipation and off course tension headaches/migranes.

It is very difficult to respond to all issues raised, as one’s area of practice limits to specific knowledge and expertise. While most medical and paramedical training provide basic common foundation that allows one to understand and comment on most basic biological/psychological issues, in principle.

An online platform that accommodates practitioners across the globe becomes very difficult to monitor or regulate and can also provide conflicting information that can cause more harm than good.

On the other hand, in communities where there is little accessibility, this platform may provide patients with better questions to take to their physicians as well as other opinions on issues they may be struggling to find resolve for.

Accountability is compromised

Fact remains that accountability is compromised.

In comparison to the western/eastern developed facilities, people can google their symptoms and do their own research before visiting their physicians, which ends up being just a trip to request a prescription and or signposting to specialist services as google would have done the diagnosing.

What has also been highlighted is some substandard/incompetent nature of the work provided by local practitioners seemingly working solely on self-reports for diagnosis and treatments.

All this highlights questions about whether the medical model is still fit for purpose when knowledge and information is now widely accessible on google or YouTube.

Gone are the days when information monopoly was only limited to libraries, university and college compasses.

The global village is not only limited to selling good and services but is also extended to seeking medical opinions and advise from beyond borders even for issues that may not be legal in a society, like abortion.

These present profoundly serious moral and ethical issues. There is a clear theme of lack of basic understanding of simple and basic biology and psychology, things I personally feel are the core human needs beyond STEM.

Our education pushes for subjects that do very little for our people but cater more for the needs of more established societies.

People always do the best they can with the information available to them. When they know more, they always do better, but certain societies seem reluctant to offer their communities more in fear of losing control.

The people are the economies, how you treat the former is evidenced in the latter and vice versa. Thanks to the organisers of Hot Seat and various professionals volunteering their time and knowledge.

While this may not necessarily be adequate, in a world of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.

We appeal to administrations to apply the global village mantra not only to trade and commerce, but also to medical services to enable people more information to make informed choices, for the human body require exactly the same intervention whether in Europe, Asia, Americas, Australia, Canada, Africa or Antarctica.

Availability of equipment and facilities may be the only limiting factor in most developing communities.

By Psychotherapist – Mertha Mo Nyamande @InsightWellbeing Ltd #Monya-Mental February 2021. Feedback

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