News: Family Physician adapts practice to maintain patient relationships amid pandemic

Alumni and adjunct faculty, Dr. Mario Elia, who practices at the London Lambeth Family Medicine Clinic, has found a way to keep the relationship he has with his patients going during the evolving pandemic.

As a local family physician, Dr. Elia maintains a website and Facebook page to provide information to his patients and the community. Before last month, the idea of a Facebook Live hadn’t crossed his mind. However, with the number of questions his office was fielding increasing as the pandemic carried on, Dr. Elia thought going live might benefit both himself and his patients.

That first Facebook Live Q&A chat happened on March 21 and has since had close to 30,000 views. The one-and-a-half-hour video allowed Dr. Elia to answer common questions and to provide his patients with the information they were craving. Patients and community members could also comment on the video and share it via their own personal networks extending its reach.

“We received good feedback from patients,” said Dr. Elia.

With so much misinformation out there, and variation in how people interpret the news, he sees opportunity in using his position as a trusted source of information, to build and maintain his relationship with patients. So much so, that Dr. Elia held a second Facebook Live on April 22, once again taking to the live platform to challenge more recent conspiracy theories, misinformation online, and COVID-19 myths. 

“I want to use my position as a trusted source,” he said. “Not seeing people face to face has been tough, as it’s such an important part of family medicine. This [Facebook Live] is helpful for patients to see their doctor, a reassuring face, and reinforces the importance of their family doctor in their life.”

Dr. Elia added, it is also interesting for doctors as well, to see their patients and answer their questions during this time of need. 

“It keeps the relationship going.”

Given the success of his first two Facebook Live chats, Dr. Elia says it is likely he will continue to use Facebook Live to offer his patients and the community the opportunity to pose questions around certain topics.

As family physicians continue to face a future full of uncertainty, Dr. Elia encourages other doctors to do similar things with their patients.

“We have a certain status as someone our patients look to for information, and if other doctors have a following of any size, they should consider doing the same.”