Karen Nash is a medical reporter and media consultant based in Monroeville, PA.
"If you embrace change with curiosity, you’re going to stay ahead of the times," says one urologist.
Urology Times reached out to three urologists (selected randomly and asked them each the following question: Are you using telemedicine or plan to use it?
Dr. Turek“I’ve been using telemedicine and telehealth since I went into private practice 10 years ago. I take care of young men’s sexual health problems. You’re never going to see those patients more than once, because they’ll never come in twice. With telemedicine, you can engage younger men if you take the care to them, in the way they want to be communicated with.
I built the telemedicine practice around that and have telehealth equipment in my office so I can do distant visits. It’s not just using telemedicine; it’s designing care that involves telemedicine around the patient.
In one visit, I do everything that needs to be done in person; everything else is followed through either with video or telephone. This works for patients around the world.
Having people come into the office for a follow-up visit is primitive. By using FaceTime, my extenders can do it, we can prescribe medication, and do most everything else. Clearly, if there’s a complication, patients may need to be seen.
Probably the best example of effective telemedicine is HealthLoop. It’s a digital house call system. I’ve been using it for 10 years (full disclosure: I’m an adviser to them). But there are several others that offer preoperative/postoperative care through an app.
You can, algorithmically, develop a postoperative care plan and check in on a regular basis through the app. The app sends questions to the patients. ‘How is your pain, how is your swelling, how’s your bruising?’ You get this data without even communicating with the patient. We set alarms for their responses, and if the alarms go off indicating a problem, the system will let us know to contact them.
I am a surgeon who operates in two cities and take all my own call. That’s how wired the program is.”
Paul Turek, MD
Los Angeles/San Francisco
“I’m not involved at all. I haven’t seen any opportunities in telemedicine. It just never entered my mind, to be truthful.
I’m not aware of how there would be a need for it. Maybe there is, but I haven’t heard much about it. If I knew more about it, maybe I would consider it, but I just don’t know much about it.
I’ve been at meetings where somebody will mention it and say it’s a good thing, but as far as being helpful to me or my practice, I’m not sure how it would work.
I have patients and several referring physicians all over the state and surrounding states. It would be nice to be able to help those people out there without them having to come all the way into my office, and that topic has just never come up.
If it were available, I could see being involved, especially for my patients for around the state. Right now, they have to get in the car and drive to me. If there was some sort of reimbursement for telemedicine, I would be willing to consider it.”
Joseph Parkhurst, MD
Dr. Springhart“I’m a music fan and Bob Dylan said, ‘The times they are a-changing.’ If you embrace change with curiosity, you’re going to stay ahead of the times. With telemedicine and the use of technology, you’ll change access points to health care [and] help decrease costs both for physician practices as well as for employers by doing the majority of the encounter using telemedicine rather than their patients driving to the doctor.
I’ve never done examinations, but I have interacted with patients via technology-mostly simply for communication. One of the fears of any practitioner is that technology may take away the personal encounter. I don’t believe that will happen because you have to see the emotion on someone’s face and be able to apply empathy. That’s also part of taking care of a person. So much is lost with text messaging and emails.
Imagine an elderly patient who’s hard to get to an office and where a family member or caregiver can come to their home and have a visit so they know what the care plan is and can manage it from home. What that would do for the provider, patients, and family!
With large institutions, it tends to be somewhat piecemeal, so my job is to align the providers in our organization and standardize the process of telemedicine. We look at every single employee as a caregiver: physician, physician’s assistant, nurse, dietitian, or even someone at the front desk-we’re all aligned and committed to taking care of our patients.”
W. Patrick Springhart, MD
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