Vikas Majithia, MD, on How I Practice Now: Innovative Ways for Treating Autoimmune Patients During a Crisis

In this video, Vikas Majithia, MD, talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the treatment of autoimmune patients at his practice in Mississippi. 

Vikas Majithia, MD, is professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Rheumatology, and fellowship program director at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.



Vikas Majithia: I’m Vikas Majithia. I'm a rheumatologist in Mississippi. I work at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, where I am the division director for rheumatology and also the fellowship program director and these are my experiences with the COVID-19 crisis.

Last month, everything kind of broke apart at the seams. Certainly, there was a surge of information coming out about COVID, and at that point, although we had known that this pandemic was progressing, we were asked to kind of jump into the action.

Mississippi has been one which has been moderately affected by COVID, and we do not have a huge amount of surge. We did not transform into a hotspot like New Orleans in Louisiana, yet we have had a fair number of cases in our area in Jackson metro area, particularly.

The University of Mississippi, being the tertiary medical center in the region and the state, has received its fair share of COVID patients.

From an inpatient perspective, we have had pretty much last 2 weeks of COVID patients only, although there have been some other disorders, which are still being seen in the hospital. But COVID operations have been has affected us immensely in the ambulatory setting, too.

About 4 weeks ago, we were asked to go completely on to telemedicine, which we had not done at all in the past in our division, although other divisions in the university were doing some of that. Since March 14, we have not seen any patient in the clinic, and we are taking care of pretty much every patient through telemedicine, and that has evolved a lot.

We have had challenges, but we have learned from them. So we initially started with audio-only calls, and now we hope to do audio-visual calls. There have been 3 different platforms we are using and it has actually added significant value to what we practice.

I have been pleasantly surprised on how much can be accomplished by video encounter of some of the rheumatology patients. And it has certainly been a great learning experience. I personally think, both from my own practice as well as the practice of for the division, that telehealth is a great tool and is here to stay. We should use this learning to really expand on the telehealth aspect of our practice.

I also have been involved in planning the institutional response to the COVID crisis, and that has been very interesting to learn how we manage the resources that are difficult to come by including PPEs, and on top, managing the human capital and which places to use them the best.

That whole process has helped me personally about learning about management of disasters at this time.

Also, one last thing I want to say is that we have learned a lot about the innovations which have come through. We have practiced medicine in a certain way for centuries. And in the last 4 weeks, we have had to completely relearn how do we practice medicine and to change those processes and how do we implement those.

So one of the things that we have been able to accomplish is since our autoimmune disease patients are at high-risk for infections, and obviously exposure to COVID, we have started a drive-through lab. We are also starting a drive-through area where they can come and get their intramuscular injections or their subcutaneous biologics, if they are being given at the institution.

I think those things are so innovative, which are likely to remain in place for the future, as there has been a huge uptick in interest both from the caregivers and patients, and their satisfaction with these processes.

So COVID-19 has been difficult, but on the other hand, it also has been a great learning experience has opened a lot of new opportunities for us. Thank you so much for watching.