2019 was a banner year for me. I traveled extensively, celebrated the start of my fourth decade, moved to a new home, got my motorcycle license, relocated my parents, and changed jobs. Ironically, it is what might be the least exciting of all those (no, not my parents) — finding a new job — that has propelled my enthusiasm clear into 2020, and is what the rest of this post details.
Last year I transitioned into a telemedicine career. Previously, I worked as a traditional hospitalist and nocturnist in both academic and public settings. It was actually the prior year (2018) in which I started looking for supplemental income, and, in particular, work I could do remotely. From work in independent expert reviews, to local moonlighting and working for insurance companies, I frequently perused a broad range of job postings seeking new opportunities. I knew I wanted a position that would offer the chance to develop a new skill set within the medical field and provide the ability to work from home. To be honest, beyond that I had no idea what I was looking for, and wasn’t even convinced it existed. Then I found Beam.
Beam is a small, technology-based, clinician-owned telemedicine start-up based in Madison, Wisconsin. It offers hospitalist and specialist care to hospitals and clinics via combinations of onsite, advanced practice provider (APP), and telephysician coverage. It is a Joint Commission-certified group of smart, proactive, problem solving providers that has figured out how to deliver complex medical care regardless of the staffing challenges smaller institutions often face.
I started off moonlighting for the company. This consisted of five shifts a month in which I provided night time hospitalist coverage independently. Through telehealth technology, HIPPA compliant texting, phone rounding, and the now-ubiquitous electronic medical record, I would be the sole hospitalist performing cross cover and admissions to our client hospitals. Suddenly I was providing bread and butter hospitalist care from home.
Slam dunk. I had found what I was looking for but didn’t think existed, and then reality set in. Was this even possible? (A question I get from 95% of people who ask me what I do). Would I be able to perform at the same level as in-person care? What would I miss by not being there? How would I put out fires and resuscitate the masses from thousands of miles away? My anxiety levels quickly rose and self-doubt reigned as I began my first shifts.
But my anxieties were unwarranted. This system works, and the care I provided was on-par with in-person care provision. I was in shock. The camera was so clear. The patients could hear me just fine (and the nurses were so savvy to turn the volume up-up-up for those with hearing impairment). The digital stethoscope was so loud. The nurse-assisted physical exam was so effective. The robot even drove itself!
Without a doubt, I also have to credit our client hospitals. Telemedicine is a relationship between people, not simply a deployment of technology. This notion is at the core of Beam’s operations, and our client hospitals have stepped up to create an effective environment of telehospitalist medicine. The allied health staff, nurses, and emergency room staff at our client hospitals understand what is required of telehospitalist work: the collection of high-quality patient data, effective communication, and care collaboration. Each of our client sites is a teamwork environment in which we (ER, ICU, med-surg, pharmacy, RT, allied health and telemedicine staff) work together to provide exceptional care to our patients.
What happened next? Four months from my start date I accepted a full-time position with Beam. Six months later I left my traditional hospitalist job and began full-time telemedicine work. Since then, I have visited our partner sites, started providing daytime attending supervision for our innovative Advanced Practice Provider hospitalist service, and became involved with new project development for the company. All of which has augmented my experience with the company, sharpened my skills as a telemedicine provider, and, with any luck, will be the subject of future blog post.
Dr. Roswell Quinn is the VP of Telehospitalist at Beam. He holds a Ph.D. in Communications Research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an M.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.