Innovation in COVID-19 Testing in Multicultural Communities

Many multicultural communities have found themselves at a loss for how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic - some with a lack of awareness, some without proper education, or some without the experience of the best medical practices. However, one medical clinic based in Queensland has been able to stay ahead of the curve by introducing safety precautions and new methods of testing. This clinic is the Amtan Medical Centres group.

Dr. Tanya Unni, an Indian doctor, and her husband, are the founders of Amtan Medical Centres, and have been able to provide expert care for many year through their medical clinics by utilising the latest innovative practices and medical care available. So, when the pandemic arrived, it was only natural that they started thinking out of the box about how to respond to COVID-19.

Dr Tanya Unni

 “Usually with natural disasters, the medical industry is not directly affected, but with this pandemic, it has been the opposite - the industry has been directly impacted,” says Dr Unni. 

In other words, those in the medical field have been forced to respond almost immediately to the impending medical crisis as a result of COVID-19, which has also had far-reaching effects on the communities the doctors serve.

There have been several ways that Atman Medical Clinic has been able to respond to the pandemic, including utilising social media channels such as Facebook and WhatsApp to share practical tips and medically-approved guidelines for stopping the spread of unhygienic practices. In addition, the Clinic has specifically used these tools to guard against misinformation in the community.

To improve accessibiliy to accurate knowledge, the medical clinic opened up a dedicated medical telehealth hotline that has been operational 24/7 since the pandemic hit. They have also interviewed leading figures in the medical industry to provide helpful advice and tips during COVID-19. However, despite these measures, the most innovative response in the midst of the coronavirus crisis has been the drive-through testing available at the Queensland-based clinic.

“Usually, exhibiting symptoms (such as sore throats) make other patients very nervous. But, with the availability of drive-through testing, patients are able to be tested at a safe distance, reducing the risk from doctor to patient”, Dr. Unni points out.

"As a result, patients can book a time to visit the clinic online; and simply drive-up to the clinic carpark and get tested instantaneously. Results are delivered over-the-phone, limiting the need for revisits." 

This, surprisingly, isn’t the first time Dr. Unni and her team of pioneering doctors have been able to provide an innovative solution to a community-centric problem. Having patented a skin exfoliation device combining smooth groove technology with ultrasound, known as the NuSonic, her innovative advances placed her in Australia’s Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs list, earning her and her husband a top spot on the coveted rankings, being the only Indian couple listed. 

Dr. Unni attributes her success to her deep dedication to the field of medicine. Even though many people in the Indian and South Asian diaspora hold the medical profession in high regard, there is an untold story of how the heirarchical environment, high pressure and significant regulation within the profession can lead to conservativism or, at worst, burn out. True innovation is harder to come by.

Having practiced medicine across three continents, including India, the UK, and now here in Australia, Dr. Unni’s migrant success story is a testament to her hard work and ability to keep a fresh perspective, continually exploring new ways of enabling medical advances to impact lives. 

Compared to many other countries, Australia managed to flatten the COVID-19 curve early on, and observing the medical advice of authorities has seemed to be a key to stopping the spread. Throughout this time of shifting requirements, Amtan Medical Centres have continued to offer bulk-billing services throughout their eight locations, and their advice and support services have also remained available online and through their hotline. 

The Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland (FICQ) noted the Indian community was both challenged and impacted by the diaspora's  response to the pandemic . In particular, as international students were left facing health concerns, especially when they were not covered by Medicare or medical insurance, the community has turned to medical centers, such as Amtan, to receive answers, and has been the recipient of Dr Unni's dedication to delivering innovative mesaure during these unprecedented times.

For more information, visit Amtan Medical Centres and learn about their drive-through testing.

Joseph F. Kolapudi is a Brisbane-based writer. He is a Manager at ReachAcross, a Multicultural Ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation of Australia, a Boad member of Australian Refugee and Migrant Care Services, and is nominated as Young Community Achiever of the Year in the India Australia Business and Community Awards 2020. Joseph was SAARI's first official writer, and is a passionate changemaker.