Post written by ATA Connector Irene Tien
If you’re going to the American Telemedicine Association conference, you know that telemedicine is on the cutting edge of health care delivery. Seventy-seven percent of Americans have a smart phone. Most have a computer or tablet device. Three-quarters of Americans have access to high-speed internet at home. With advances in technology, being seen by a doctor no longer requires a visit to an office or hospital.
My medical practice as an emergency medicine physician is naturally bound to care provided in a hospital emergency department (ED). In general, EDs are accessible and have the resources to take care of every emergency. But, you know that going to the ED often means a long wait and it can be very expensive.
I see patients every day who tried their best to go to the right place for their medical care, but chose incorrectly. This can lead to visits to multiple offices on the same day, like going to urgent care but being referred to the ED because of a broken bone needing orthopedic surgery. Sometimes the patient decides to wait until the morning to see their doctor and winds up having a heart attack or shows up to the ED just to be told to take some ibuprofen. I’ve had patients come to the ED because of a worrisome lab or imaging result provided to them via their doctor office’s patient portal. The patient tries to reach their doctor, but their doctor is not available or takes too long to call back, so they end up the ED concerned that they have a medical emergency. What if that patient could have reached a doctor via telemedicine? How differently their day may have turned out!
How can an emergency medicine doctor practice medicine online? Believe it or not, most of the medical care I provide in the ED is not a medical emergency. I certainly see my share of people having strokes and heart attacks, which do require you to go to an actual hospital. But, in many situations, the medical problem can be handled via telemedicine. A lot of the information I gather when I take care of you in the ED is from speaking with and looking at you. If you look comfortable and can articulate your problem, we have some time to discuss what to do. Many times, the information I need from a physical exam can be limited to a couple of key items. This can be performed via telemedicine by talking you or someone with you through the examination. For example, if you have an ankle injury, I will look at your ankle, have you point out where your pain is and ask you to perform some maneuvers to help identify the source of the problem. At that point, I can order x-rays, if needed, and consult with you about what you can do to take care of your injury. There’s no reason that these visits couldn’t be done remotely via video chat. Given this, being a telemedicine entrepreneur suddenly becomes a natural extension of what I have been doing professionally for the last 20 years.
How did I become a telemedicine entrepreneur? In 2017, I joined the RoweDocs network, a multi-speciality physician group providing telemedicine services to allow patients convenient and timely access to a doctor. What differentiates RoweDocs from other corporate telemedicine companies is its model of personalized medical care. Each doctor is an independent contractor working within a virtual multi-speciality group. When you connect with a RoweDoc, you know ahead of time who you are entrusting your health to. You can create a relationship with your doctor. You can also access subspecialists with a much shorter wait than via a traditional brick-and-mortar practice. Better yet, these visits are often cheaper. I chose RoweDocs because I wanted to take control of my medical practice and connect directly to patients, without all of the middle-men. Being my own boss allows me to be more facile in adjusting my services to responding to what my patients need. That’s what medicine is all about! Providing health advice and treatment to people when and how they need it.
This is my first foray into anything entrepreneurial and it’s been an amazing experience! I’ve met inspirational doctors and other entrepreneurs. I have expanded my professional horizons so much farther than I’d ever imagined. Advocating for patients by broadening their health education and making physician-access easier has been incredibly rewarding and hopefully helpful to others.
Are you a doctor thinking about using telemedicine in your practice? Do you want to become a telemedicine entrepreneur? Reach out to me. Jump in. You won’t regret it!
The views expressed in this post do not represent the views of ATA.