Dr. Saya Nagori of SimpleHealth On How To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You

Understand what your patient’s home situation is. Do they have access to the internet? Do they live with someone that can help them log on to the visit? I had a patient who typically lived alone, but her daughter came over for the telemedicine visit to help her log on and make sure the visit […]

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Understand what your patient’s home situation is. Do they have access to the internet? Do they live with someone that can help them log on to the visit? I had a patient who typically lived alone, but her daughter came over for the telemedicine visit to help her log on and make sure the visit went smoothly.


One of the consequences of the pandemic is the dramatic growth of Telehealth and Telemedicine. But how can doctors and providers best care for their patients when they are not physically in front of them? What do doctors wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office? How can Telehealth approximate and even improve upon the healthcare that traditional doctors’ visits can provide?

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. Saya Nagori.

Dr. Saya Nagori is the Founding Physician at SimpleHealth, a woman-led, nationally recognized telehealth provider of women’s reproductive wellness. She teaches physicians and institutions how to develop and engage successful digital health models and strategies for sustainability across various healthcare initiatives. As SimpleHealth’s Founding Physician, she is passionate about helping to lead a company that is physician-led and evidence based.


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?

My first traditional private practice job out of fellowship training was quite toxic. Coming from the grin and bear it medical training culture, I did just that. To make matters more stressful, I was drowning in medical school debt, so I really couldn’t just up and quit if I wanted to. I stayed for a year so I could pay off one of my very high interest school loans before switching into a career in academics. Now, looking back, I am grateful for having gone through an experience so horrible that I had to leave. This is what gave me the time and space to co-create SimpleHealth and it also gave me a clear picture of exactly the type of leader I never want to be.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” — Maya Angelou

It was not until I was in my mid-30s that I really understood what success was. I thought it was being at a certain point in my career by a certain time, or making a certain amount of money, or being married with kids before I hit age 35. At 33, I was divorced, single, still in debt from medical school, and sharing a small one bedroom apartment with my brother (also a physician and in debt from medical school) in NYC. It felt like the furthest thing from success — both professionally and personally.

After some serious soul searching, a good therapist to help me through my divorce, and a lot of reading (and by reading I mean audiobooks that I would listen to on my subway commute to the hospital), I realized that I had to change my perception of success. I was surrounded by people I love who loved me. And I didn’t just like building a company at SimpleHealth — I LOVED it. And I liked that I was doing things the right way (not the way my first employer did). I saw a lot of people rise to success only to hear in back channels that they were the worst boss ever or that they frauded their investors. I used to think “Wow, seems like you need to be a jerk to succeed as an entrepreneur.” I really strive to do things the right way, and to try to continually be a better person (this is the self help books really kicking in here).

The above quote reminds me that the word “success” is not defined by a bank account balance or the amount of TV appearances you have. It is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

If I had to add one more thing to this, it would be, for me personally, doing all the things you do surrounded and supported by colleagues, friends, and family who you have love for.

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?

There are so many people. Some who I know personally, and some who I don’t.

Dr. Jack Dodick was a mentor and leader that was so supportive of my ideas and passion for telemedicine. It was in stark contrast to the first employer I had. During my divorce, and post divorce, my therapist helped me crawl out of a dark emotional hole. Author David R. Hawkings, who wrote the book Letting Go, taught me exactly that and how to get my mindset right. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, helped me both professionally and personally. My brother Anand Nagori, my cousins, and my wildly supportive group of friends cheered me on when there were bumps both professionally and personally. Alex Bargar, now the co-founder of Juno, was my first true friend in the startup world, and filled a lot of the knowledge gaps I had coming from a career in medicine. Dr. Sylvia Romm, Chief Health Officer at Cityblock, has been a fellow telemedicine colleague who has been a great confidant and person to bounce ideas off of. The entire executive team at SimpleHealth — especially SimpleHealth’s CEO, Carrie Siubutt — continue to teach me things as our company grows. My mom Amita Nagori, and mother in law, Lata Patel help me with childcare for my 1-year-old son so I can still be a mom and an entrepreneur. My husband, Chirag Patel, is my number one cheerleader and helps me with super boring stuff like Quickbooks.

I mention all these people because there is a piece of my success that is owed to about 80% of the people in my life. Maybe it’s because they taught me something, or gave me an opportunity, or made an introduction for me, or maybe it’s because they are positive forces in my life that tell me I can do great things and that they will happily babysit my son, Arzu, while I do them (and FaceTime when I have breaks so I can still see him). It all matters.

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. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you?

I had a patient recently who lost a family member. Of the 20-minutes that was allotted for her exam time, I spent probably 15 of them just sitting with her and letting her tear up periodically and tell me what happened. We did, of course, get to her exam and she was stable, so I refilled her medications and scheduled her for a follow-up. But, for that patient on that day, she needed my empathy more than my physician skills. As someone who sees both telemedicine patients and in-person patients, there is a level of connection and conversation that feels deeper in-person, and I think this is one of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you. Behind each telehealth visit is a real person with real problems and I hope that as telehealth grows we don’t lose this.

On the flip side, 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 the biggest challenge is the obvious one — the lack of being able to do a physical exam. If you’re unable to determine something via history and a limited telehealth physical, you will end up asking the patient to come in.

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.)

Understand what your patient’s home situation is. Do they have access to the internet? Do they live with someone that can help them log on to the visit? I had a patient who typically lived alone, but her daughter came over for the telemedicine visit to help her log on and make sure the visit went smoothly.

Know when to tell the patient to come in. Some patients have serious issues that need to be addressed in-person. I had a patient that did not want to come in due to fear of contracting COVID-19, which was understandable. However, they had an acute situation that needed to be addressed in-person. So, after some time they became agreeable to going to the ER.

Be flexible. If you start a visit via video and mid way the video cuts out, don’t stress out. Just continue the visit via phone and if you need to reschedule, be quick to make that decision as well. I had a patient who picked up a telemedicine visit from his car and I could see that he was actively driving. I quickly made the decision to reschedule his appointment for his safety.

Experiment with different telehealth platforms. I actively use 3 different platforms so that I have options in case one platform gives me connectivity issues. You don’t want to try a new platform for the first time when your usual one gives out.

Stay on time. Watch the clock so that you don’t fall behind with televisits. When patients are physically in the office you have the flexibility of going back and forth between rooms. You don’t have this luxury on telemedicine. In order to stay organized and give enough time to each patient, do your best to stay on time and schedule a second visit, if needed.

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?

A huge benefit to telehealth is saving time and reducing exposure to things like COVID-19 or other illnesses that you may get exposed to at in-person visits. It also gives people access to specialists who are hard to find in your geographic area and allows for triage of very serious issues. For example, I saw a patient on telemedicine who seemed like she was having a retinal detachment. I immediately referred her to my colleague who was able to operate on her the next day. She saved herself a few days by not having to come see me in-person.

Let’s zoom in a bit. 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?

Some telehealth platforms have a waiting room feature, which I really like. Additionally, I still use my staff to help me teach patients and prepare them for their time with me. This way when they “see” me virtually we can get right to their issue.

If you could design the perfect Telehealth feature or system to help your patients, what would it be?

I would love for all patients to have every peripheral device available to them. In the telehealth world, peripherals are devices that can collect and transmit patient healthcare data to the provider. This can include something like a home blood pressure cuff, an otoscope, or even a fetal doppler.

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?

The best way to get optimal results from a telehealth exam is to be as honest as possible with your physician. Because our exam is limited when it is done virtually, being an accurate and precise historian is important. Additionally, having a family member around, if you’re comfortable with it, can be helpful in terms of shining a light on areas of the body that the doctor wants to take a better look at.

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?

This is a tough question because something that may seem like a fantastic tool or new technology often has challenges that need to be overcome. For instance, some of the fanciest technology in eye care is extremely expensive for the average patient. Thus, while the technology exists and it is accurate, it’s not widely used because it’s not something that everyone can readily access.

Beyond the price point of certain tech is the regulation of the device as well. We have seen some remote testing applications that have been taken off the market due to lack of accuracy. So, yes, while I am excited about several things, I am also skeptical about their real world applications.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

My concern is finding balance. There are definitely people that are not happy about the advancement that is happening in telemedicine. And there are also people who think that digital technologies can completely replace the human interaction that currently exists in medicine. I think that the answer is between those two. There is an art to being a physician that goes beyond pure diagnostics and treatment delivery. Most physicians, like myself, enjoy the human connection we have with our patients. So I hope that as the technology continues to improve, we find ways to preserve that human connection.

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. 🙂

It’s already starting to happen, but I want patients to be their own biggest advocates. In a world where there are so many obstacles between the patient and the patient care team, it is so important for patients to try and be as informed as possible. I don’t mean that you should trust Dr. Google over your actual doctor, but it does mean that you should look things up when you’re confused so you can ask questions. It also means knowing the names of all your medications and their dosages. Taking an active interest in your health conditions is so important to your long term health. 2020 has shown us that there is nothing more important than one’s health. Oh yeah, and trust science.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can find me on Instagram at @doctor.saya or on Twitter @NagoriMD.

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