Address the patient by their name, sometimes over telemedicine the visit just starts with a quick hello, but saying the person’s name and also introducing yourself will allow the patient to have a connection with you too.
In this interview series, called “Telehealth Best Practices; How to Best Care for Your Patients When They Are Not Physically in Front of You” we are talking to successful Doctors, Dentists, Psychotherapists, Counselors, and other medical and wellness professionals who share lessons and stories from their experience about the best practices in Telehealth. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Payel Gupta.
Dr. Payel Gupta completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and majored in biopsychology and religion. She earned her medical degree from the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University; and then pursued a residency in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She then moved to New York City and did a fellowship in allergy and immunology at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Gupta is an Associate Clinical Professor at both SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. She is triple board certified and holds certifications from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, the American Board of Internal Medicine, and the American Board of Pediatrics.
She is practicing in New York City treating both adult and pediatric patients with asthma, environmental allergies, allergic skin conditions, immune disorders and food allergies.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have been practicing medicine for the past 12+ years in New York City. After finishing my training, I left the country for 2 years to volunteer in Liberia, Nepal and India. When I came back to the city, I had a different perspective on medicine and really appreciated our healthcare system in many ways but also learned a lot from the countries where I volunteered.
I was an associate at large group practices for several years and then in 2019 I was introduced to my co-founders through a good friend and colleague of mine and the vision for our company really started to take shape then. Last year as the pandemic got worse in New York City, I was pregnant and was forced into early unpaid time off in order to keep my baby safe. During this time, we were in the early phases of growth of our telemedicine platform. With the support of my co-founders, we decided that it would be best for me to work on our project fulltime and to leave my current practice. This was a blessing because I was able to keep safe and delivered a healthy baby boy at the end of July. So, in theory I really had two babies in 2020!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I have had a lot of interesting experiences while working abroad. I think that one of the experiences that will never leave my mind — was when I was volunteering in Haiti after the earthquake, we had a patient who fell and was electrocuted while trying to get power back to his home. He was young but had been severely hurt by the accident. We tried our best to save him but ultimately, he passed. His family came to console us after his passing and thanked us for at least giving them hope in helping their loved one. If we hadn’t been there to help, they said, he would have died at home and they would not have the peace of mind knowing that they did something to help him. That story always reminds me that in healthcare we can’t always change the outcome for a patient but we can make a difference just by giving someone access to care.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The days are long but the years are short.” — Gretchen Rubin
Medical training can be very difficult and in retrospect although the days were long and sometimes challenging the years flew by. I wish that I had spent more time in the present moment enjoying some of those long days and realizing that those moments were amazing even though they felt hard.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My family and especially my dad have definitely helped me throughout my life, but more recently the person who has helped me achieve success is my good friend and colleague Dr. Wei Wei Li. Wei Wei referred me to my co-founders when she heard about the opportunity because she knew that I would love to get involved in a new project. She is not only the reason that I am a co-founder but she has also been a vital source of support and instrumental in helping to build out the medical aspect of our telehealth company.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how doctors treat their patients. Many doctors have started treating their patients remotely. Telehealth can of course be very different than working with a patient that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity because it allows more people access to medical professionals, but it can also create unique challenges. Can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you?
A main benefit of having a patient physically in front of you is to be able to exam difficult to exam areas. For example, when I conduct in-person visits it is helpful for me to see the inside of someone’s nose to see if there are any signs of allergies.
Face to face visits are also sometimes better for younger children and infants where they need a complete physical exam, growth monitoring and vaccinations for early visits — not easy to accomplish via telemedicine. Surgical specialties also need to do in-person visits in some cases.
Can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a patient is not in the same space as the doctor?
I think one of the main challenges is making sure the person feels comfortable and establishing the doctor-patient relationship which for some providers and patients can be hard in a virtual setting. In addition, there are times that a physician might find an incidental finding on exam that leads to the diagnosis of serious illnesses that may not have been related to the patient’s complaint.
Here is the main question of our interview Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need to Know to Best Care for Your Patients When They Are Not Physically in Front Of You? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- As a doctor, make sure you are in a space that is free of distraction and feels private.
- Allow for casual banter as you would when you see someone in person, when we are over tele-health you might not be able to bring up things like liking someone’s shirt or bag or shoes, which usually allows the physician and patient to build a relationship outside of just the doctor-patient relationship.
- Address the patient by their name, sometimes over telemedicine the visit just starts with a quick hello, but saying the person’s name and also introducing yourself will allow the patient to have a connection with you too.
- Look at the camera and not just the video display.
- Be prepared — make sure everything works before you start seeing patients
Can you share a few ways that Telehealth can create opportunities or benefits that traditional in-office visits cannot provide? Can you please share a story or give an example?
With telemedicine, one of the nice things that I have found is being able to have the patient show you the medications they are taking at home. Oftentimes patients will forget the names of their medications when they come into the office and that is always challenging; you might have to tell the patient to call after the visit to give the names of medications before being able to make a plan for the patient. With telehealth and patient’s calling from home, this is not the case. I have been on may telehealth visits where a patient just runs to the bathroom or kitchen to grab their medications to show them to me.
Telemedicine also allows a patient to not miss work which allows them to feel freer and not walk into an appointment stressed because of work or the commute to the office. I know often times in New York City, the subway was running slow or something happened on the way to the appointment that might totally throw someone off, and in turn throw off the whole visit.
Telemedicine is also usually more readily available.
Many tools have been developed to help facilitate Telehealth. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
I like the virtual waiting rooms that some platforms provide. It allows patient to know that they are in the right place in case the doctor is running late. It also allows for educational messaging while they wait which is great.
If you could design the perfect Telehealth feature or system to help your patients, what would it be?
- Easy way to share educational materials/ diagrams
- Easy way to set reminders via text for appointments and a summary of medications prescribed
- Ease of use with no login or app download
- Waiting room
- Vitals through inexpensive device
Are there things that you wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office?
Be prepared — make sure you have your questions ready. Sometimes tech issues can throw both the patient and physician off, as a patient writing down your questions always ensures that you won’t forget during the visit, this is true for both in-person and over telehealth
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring people together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
I think for educational purposes these technologies can be very helpful in explaining hard to explain concepts.
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
I think that we already have too much screen time and not enough time in the present moment, I am afraid that all of these new technologies will take us further into a virtual reality rather than the physical space we are in. Less screen time is optimal for our health. More physical touch and being present in the moment.
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question…You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A movement that inspires selflessness and giving. If we all gave a little more of ourselves in a selfless way the world would definitely be a better place for everyone.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can see our website and offerings at www.getcleared.com
Follow me on Instagram @nycdoctor and also follow @get_cleared
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview!