In 2017, the Internet offers us an infinite amount of information at our fingertips which gives us the potential to find an answer to almost any question we have. Although digital navigation skills were not taught when I started at medical school in 1998, I have learnt these since and now see the Internet as an integral part of my doctor’s bag, squashed between the more familiar items of stethoscope and digital thermometer. For GPs to take full advantage of all the Internet can offer to their consultation skills, they must be able to find what they are looking for with speed and be sure that source is accurate, up to date and where relevant, evidence based.
A typical day in GP may mean I communicate with over 60 patients; telephone calls, face to face consultations, email queries and home visits. The diverse range and presentation of clinical conundrums is one of the aspects of my job I enjoy the most although it means having to retain the broadest possible knowledge base. The fast changing rules and recommendations for all areas of general practice are a constant challenge to keep up with. Even before a quick mid-surgery coffee break, I may have used “Dr.Google” several times already. To check the time until driving is recommended after keyhole surgery for gallbladder removal or what tropical diseases a patient might have picked up from an insect bite on the edge of a river in South Africa.
Mental Health is an area where the use of digital technology can be hugely helpful but it is also an area where there are vast amounts of material, tools and platforms available to choose from. Deciding which one is most suitable is a challenge for both those personally affected, and those professionals supporting them. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has developed both a Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit as well as a Mental Health Toolkit which are free, open access collections of hundreds of resources to help with this challenge.
With this week being Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, it is a great opportunity to share a link to the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit with a wider audience. For professionals, there are many useful links to help with prescribing issues and to give advice to women to help them make an informed choice about the safest choice of medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are several Top Tip style documents about communication, red flag signs to identify more serious illness as well as links to further learning. For patients, there are links to many information leaflets, third sector organisations, online peer support groups, digital media sources of help amongst many others.
During Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week, why not have a look at the RCGP PMH Toolkit and see how digital technology can help you with Perinatal Mental Health issues whether personally affected, or professionally supporting those who are?
Dr Carrie Ladd