Some medical professionals have preconceived notions about practicing medicine online, but before making a decision it’s important to listen to those who have actually participated in telehealth. All physicians who practice on American Well’s platform receive extensive training prior to actually seeing patients, including training about technology, clinical protocols and emergency situations. To give you a better idea of what telehealth training entails, we asked one of our doctors to walk through her own experience. Lauralee Yalden, MD, FAAFP, is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who joined Online Care Group (the physician-owned medical group that staffs American Well’s Amwell and other customers’ platforms) in November of 2012. Below she shares her telehealth training and practicing experience:
There are some doctors out there, and I believe that number is decreasing, that believe all patient care must be done in person. I wanted to be part of a new frontier and embrace a new technology. I also wanted to help expand the reach of my family practice while helping to improve patient access to doctors in a convenient, safe, affordable way. And lastly, I wanted a way to practice and spend more time at home with my family.
This amazing opportunity came along to work for Online Care Group. I was really impressed by the vision, drive and teamwork. The telehealth training took a few days. As one of the first doctors hired, OCG sent a trainer to the house to help get everything set up and to really gave me one-on-one instructions. We doctors practiced on each other—just like in residency—to get a feel for the system and what practicing online would be like.
Once training was complete we were ready to practice online. It was like your first day anywhere—you never know who is going to be connecting and what their chief concern might be. But it’s exactly like being in the office. There is a bit of a learning curve getting used to the platform, tailoring your history taking, and modifying the physical exam to get the information you need to make a good and safe medical decision. Now that I’m more than two years in and have treated well over 2,500 patients, I feel completely at home and prefer practicing family medicine online.
Since my experience, the training has grown and expanded with the technology to include the kiosks and various regular updates to the system. Now, us “old-timer” doctors, along with the physician services team, mentor the new staff to give a very comprehensive training program. The Network Operations Center is available 24/7 to answer any technical questions we may have during our shifts. Customer support is available for any issues patients might have. There is a nice ebb and flow to the workday and it’s a great comfort having such excellent and knowledgeable support staff ready 24/7.
I’ve been taking calls from home since my medical internship; it’s just something family medicine doctors are well-trained to do. The addition of the video really enhances your reach and helps to better understand the patients concerns using both verbal and non-verbal cues—it’s a great diagnostic aid. Patients love being able to reach a physician within minutes from work, from home, on when you’re on vacation.
I also really enjoy working together with the doctors and support staff online in our virtual practice. It’s just such a pleasant and professional group stretching across the country. Over our “virtual water cooler” we remotely talk about the practice, our experiences with the patients, technology and how we can all work together to optimize patient care. The American Well platform is easy to learn and use, and is becoming more integrated with each upgrade.