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Dr. Timothy Hendrix of AdventHealth: “Smile and look directly at the camera”

Beyond the obvious need to conduct a physical exam, it is much easier to evaluate nuances such as facial expressions, body movements, etc. that can reveal a lot about the patient’s emotional state or severity of illness when the patient is sitting in front of you. Also, as humans, sometimes we need a reassuring pat […]

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Beyond the obvious need to conduct a physical exam, it is much easier to evaluate nuances such as facial expressions, body movements, etc. that can reveal a lot about the patient’s emotional state or severity of illness when the patient is sitting in front of you. Also, as humans, sometimes we need a reassuring pat on the hand or shoulder, or a confident handshake from our doctor.


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 Timothy Hendrix, MD.

Timothy Hendrix, MD, is medical director for AdventHealth Centra Care. In this role, he oversees the delivery of care and telehealth services for 57 urgent care and primary care clinics in Florida, Kansas and North Carolina.

Dr. Hendrix has more than 25 years of experience working in primary care, urgent care and occupational medicine.

He earned his medical degree from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and completed his specialty training at AdventHealth’s (then Florida Hospital) Family Medicine Residency in Orlando. He is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians.


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 interest in medicine originated from my work as a volunteer firefighter in the small mountain community where I grew up in California. I trained as an EMT and hoped to one day become an emergency room physician, but I eventually decided on family medicine as a specialty due in large part to the relationships primary care physicians have with their patients. After training in family medicine in AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division — South Region, then known as Florida Hospital, I started my career in a private practice in Orlando, rounding at the hospital in the morning, seeing patients in the office during the day and occasionally moonlighting at urgent care in the evening. I loved the practice and my patients, but I also enjoyed the pace and variety of urgent care. Eventually I made the transition to working full time in urgent care.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After a hurricane hit central Florida, our team set up a mobile medical unit in the hardest-hit area, as many doctors’ offices and pharmacies were closed for weeks due to power outages and storm damage. We took care of patients with minor injuries and illnesses and also assisted people with medication refills. My most vivid memory of this situation was when I was called to help someone in crisis at the front waiting area. A patient was having a panic attack, screaming and crying that she had lost everything and didn’t know what she was going to do. As I tried to quickly assess her condition, I noticed a camera crew descending on the scene, moving in for a close-up of this poor woman in distress. I tried to get her to move inside the medical van, but she wouldn’t budge, having lost all control to the panic attack. All I could do was try to ignore the camera and attempt to talk her down. Eventually we were able to get her inside the medical unit and seen by an onsite crisis counselor. I don’t know if the footage ever aired on the news, but the aftermath of that storm was one example of just how fragile life can be and the role health care systems and providers play in sustaining and compassionately caring for the physical and mental health of people in the community in times of crises.

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

“The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” This cynical quote from Voltaire reminds me as a physician that I’m not always in control and sometimes patients just need reassurance that their symptoms don’t represent a serious or life-threatening disorder.

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 mentor was the doctor that gave me my first job as a family physician. Dr. Baxley owned the practice and inspired me in two ways: his compassion for his patients and the way he built the business of his practice. He treated every patient like family and wouldn’t hesitate to make a house call or open the practice on the weekend to see them. He was also an astute businessman who knew how to market his practice by participating with the local chambers of commerce and other business organizations.

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

Beyond the obvious need to conduct a physical exam, it is much easier to evaluate nuances such as facial expressions, body movements, etc. that can reveal a lot about the patient’s emotional state or severity of illness when the patient is sitting in front of you. Also, as humans, sometimes we need a reassuring pat on the hand or shoulder, or a confident handshake from our doctor.

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?

Every situation is different, but common things like technical glitches, frozen images, the lack of eye contact and background distractions in the patient’s home or setting can make it a challenge to communicate effectively with patients during a video visit.

Fantastic. 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 Five 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.)

Look the part. First impressions are critical during these interactions. I would recommend finding a neutral background and wearing a lab coat in order to quickly gain the patient’s confidence in you as a professional.

Smile and look directly at the camera. Eye contact can be difficult since the patient might be looking down at your image on their computer. You might think the patient isn’t looking at you when in fact their eyes are trained on your image at the bottom of the computer screen.

Listen closely to the patient and resist the temptation to interrupt or redirect the patient. Due to delays in the connection speeds, interrupting a patient mid-sentence can become a disruptive cycle. When there is a pause in their speech, briefly summarize their problem back to them to confirm you heard them correctly.

Don’t dismiss a patient’s initial complaint as not appropriate for telehealth. One time a patient’s reason for the visit was a “4-month-old with a cough.” The parents were worried about the cough and I was concerned that I could not do a proper lung exam by telehealth. But after learning that the infant didn’t have a fever and was nursing normally, I asked the parents to turn the camera toward the baby. The infant was smiling and cooing in the bassinet. The image was enough to reassure me that the child was fine and could wait until the morning to be seen by their pediatrician.

Always end the visit by reminding the patient of the limits of the video visit. For example, let them know that they should follow up for an in-person exam if their symptoms aren’t improving or for their routine preventive care.

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?

One big benefit is ease of access. Although many providers were initially skeptical of telehealth, I have seen its incredible ability to allow easy access to health care anytime, anywhere. It is especially convenient for those who are unable to take time out of work to see a doctor in person. It’s not uncommon to talk to patients during their lunch breaks or while they are in parking lots as they try to find a quiet place for the visit.

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?

The technology has come so far over the years. I’ve been pleased by the steady improvement in bandwidth and video frame rates. A high-resolution image of your patient can make it seem like they are sitting right in front of you.

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

I would love it if there were an inexpensive device or app that can provide accurate vital signs and pulse oximetry. Being able to incorporate something like this into the doctor-patient telehealth interaction could really add an extra layer to the medical evaluation.

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?

Oftentimes, there is a perception that a telehealth visit is not as good as an in-office visit, which is not true. So, the first thing patients should know is that they aren’t getting inferior care with a telehealth visit, as most medical conditions can be managed without the need for a physical exam. Providers can order tests, referrals or imaging studies remotely. Also, it’s good for patients to come into the telehealth appointments prepared. Doing things like having a list of questions and minimizing distractions from family members or pets can help get the most out of their visit, with the added convenience and flexibility of doing so in a virtual setting.

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?

It’s hard to say right now because new technology is only as good as the people willing to use it. It took time and even a pandemic for some patients and providers to really embrace the benefits of telehealth. Prior to that, it was sometimes a challenge to get people comfortable with the idea of video visits. Many times, however, people who were originally wary of the technology quickly became regulars on the platform once they gave it a chance.

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

In many ways, health care has become a patchwork of services that can provide the convenience patients desire, but it can leave huge gaps in their care. Even though patients can do a quick telehealth visit when they are sick, there are still some interactions — such as for mental health services or a quick checkup on a chronic condition with a specialist — that sitting down with their family doctor to take time to review all aspects of their health care and preventive care needs is essential.

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. 🙂

For each of us, our personal health and well-being are so pivotal to our quality of life and our outlook on life. I would love to see a more widespread movement to make health care more affordable, accessible and easy to navigate for everyone. Too often, people’s financial and/or social conditions are barriers to getting the care they need. And at the same time, for many others who can access health care services, the system is still too complex to navigate from one point of care to another. This is prevalent throughout the nation’s health care infrastructure and I know that we at AdventHealth, and I’m sure other organizations as well, are working to make the health care experience easier and more convenient for consumers.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit AdventHealth.com to learn more about our organization and mission and see some of the great stories about how our providers and team members are making a difference in the lives of those we serve every day.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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