Clinicians are on the front lines when it comes to using healthcare technology. To get a doctor’s perspective on health IT, we caught up with Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, medical director for patient experience, breast diagnostic clinic, at Mayo Clinic Rochester, for her thoughts on telemedicine and the work she has been undertaking with remote patients in Alaska.
Intel: How are you involved in virtual care?
Pruthi: I have a very personal interest in virtual care. I have been providing telemedicine care to women in Anchorage, Alaska, right here from my telemedicine clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I have referrals from providers in Anchorage who ask me to meet their patients using virtual telemedicine. We call it our virtual breast clinic, and we’ve been offering the service twice a month for the past three years.
Intel: What services do you provide through telemedicine?
Pruthi: We know that in some remote parts of the country, it’s hard to get access to experts. What I’ve been able to provide remotely is medical counseling for women who are considered high risk for breast cancer. I remotely counsel them on breast cancer prevention and answer questions about genetic testing for breast cancer when there is a very strong family history. The beauty is that I get to see them and they get to see me, rather than just writing out a note to their provider and saying, “Here’s what I would recommend that the patient do.”
Intel: How have patients and providers in Alaska responded to telemedicine?
Pruthi: We did a survey and asked patients about their experience and whether they felt that they received the care they were expecting when they came to a virtual clinic. The result was 100 percent satisfaction by the patients. We also surveyed the providers and asked if their needs were met through the referral process. The results were that providers said they were very pleased and would recommend the service again to their patients.
Intel: Where would you like to see telemedicine go next?
Pruthi: The next level that I would love to see is the ability to go to the remote villages in the state of Alaska, where people have an even harder time coming to a medical center. I’d also like to be able to have a pre-visit with patients who may need to come in for treatment so we can better coordinate their care before they arrive.
Intel: When it comes to telemedicine, what keeps you up at night?
Pruthi: Thinking about how we can improve the patient experience. I really feel that for a patient who is dealing with an illness, the medical experience should wow them. It should be worthwhile to the patient and it should follow them on their entire journey—when they make their appointment, when they meet with their physician, when they have tests done in the lab, when they undergo procedures. Every step plays a role in how they feel when they go home. That’s what we call patient-centered care.