Rob Mahan of Exer Urgent Care: “Valuing family above all else has remained a guiding philosophy and one that I pass onto my children”

Looking forward, telehealth technology will advance with the introduction of doctor referrals to specialists immediately being integrated into the call. Imagine complaining of chest tightness when exercising during a telehealth call with a general care physician. With a virtual ping, they can have a cardiologist on the line to provide critical insights and consultation. One […]

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Looking forward, telehealth technology will advance with the introduction of doctor referrals to specialists immediately being integrated into the call. Imagine complaining of chest tightness when exercising during a telehealth call with a general care physician. With a virtual ping, they can have a cardiologist on the line to provide critical insights and consultation.

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 Rob Mahan, CEO of Exer Urgent Care.

Rob Mahan is the CEO of Exer Urgent Care, bringing 22 years of experience in healthcare management to Southern California’s fastest-growing ER alternative. Mahan is dedicated to innovating and improving the patient experience by transforming how patients experience care when they have urgent medical needs because everyone benefits when communities feel better, together.

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’ve always had an interest in the healthcare field. I remember as a kid telling my pediatrician that I wanted to do his job. He argued that at my young age I would probably change my mind. A few years later my mom was diagnosed with leukemia, and I spent endless hours in hospitals. That experience changed my perspective on becoming a doctor. I decided instead to channel my energy into business and started working in the healthcare management space, which allowed me to still fulfill my childhood desire to make a difference in the medical field.

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

Absolutely! I vividly remember my son finishing batting practice when a ball hit him in the eye, splitting his eyebrow. We raced to the emergency room and then waited from 6pm to 1am before we were able to see the doctor. Watching your child have to suffer that long, for a procedure that ultimately took only 30 minutes, was a game-changer for me. When I was introduced to Exer Urgent Care’s business model, built and staffed by ER doctors providing a wide range of services typically associated with emergency rooms, I was hooked. I wanted to be a part of what I believed was a critical missing piece in healthcare.

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

My favorite quote is “It’s easy to be mindful, it’s hard to remember.” While it provides a great mental state lesson, the deeper meaning is the idea that we know the right thing to do, but it can be hard to have the discipline to do it throughout one’s busy day. The cumulative effect of holding true to this quote day-in-and-day-out is incredibly powerful. We believe in this sentiment at Exer Urgent Care. It allows us to achieve exceptional things and live up to our vision of defining what “urgent care should be.” Only through remembering to be mindful in our care of each patient, do we turn medical care back into a personal experience rather than a sterile process.

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 father has been the most influential and inspiring person in my life. During my mom’s battle with leukemia, we effectively hit the lifetime ‘max’ with our insurance policy. My father did what was necessary to facilitate the care needed, including selling our house and relocating to obtain cutting-edge therapy for my mom. Throughout the whole process, my dad never complained and remained wholeheartedly focused on what was best for our family. He taught me about prioritizing what matters most in life and the importance of cherishing our time on earth while we can.

Today, valuing family above all else has remained a guiding philosophy and one that I pass onto my children. My dad instilled in me, not only an appreciation of life but additionally an unapologetic focus on how work can reflect your personal core values. He’s been an exceptional mentor, and I was honored to celebrate his impact through having him serve as the best man at my wedding.

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?

First and foremost, let me state that despite the many benefits of telehealth, there will always be value associated with in-person visits. Physical appointments can address areas of concern often difficult to identify remotely. This could include the paleness of a patient’s skin or mobility concerns when walking into an exam room. These symptoms are often yet to be identified or noticed by the patient and usually are some of the first aspects investigated by a physician while onsite.

For emergent serious injuries or high-risk situations, such as chest pain, in-person appointments are vital due to the requirement of advanced equipment and potentially life-saving measures. Naturally, lower risk injuries or abrasions including stitches and lacerations likewise require in-person treatment.

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?

The integration of telehealth is a natural transition for emergent care as it utilizes the same urgent care business model with augmentation for the digital age. One of the main benefits of telehealth integration is it provides flexibility for patients and health care solutions for those concerned with visiting in-person medical facilities — including, but not limited to, homebound individuals or those with high-risk factors such as being immunocompromised.

Additionally, we have also found the at-home environment provides a level of comfort that leads to more transparent conversations between doctor and patient — often hard to achieve in traditional exam rooms due to embarrassment or feeling nervous to discuss certain issues.

Looking forward, telehealth technology will advance with the introduction of doctor referrals to specialists immediately being integrated into the call. Imagine complaining of chest tightness when exercising during a telehealth call with a general care physician. With a virtual ping, they can have a cardiologist on the line to provide critical insights and consultation.

By offering in-person appointments and the flexibility of remote telehealth solutions, Exer is filling the gap in comprehensive care that exists between primary-care physicians and emergency room visits in a way that is patient-focused, convenient, and affordable.

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?

Telehealth has many benefits but like any new business model, there are natural hurdles to address. One such challenge is the inherent limitations to the testing of vitals, including measuring blood pressure and heart rate. While we see future evolution within at-home testing tools, currently a visit to a clinic is required to ensure accuracy.

Another challenge that may arise is the requirement for users to have a basic knowledge of technology. We have seen across the industry that utilizing the required tech can be a deterrent for some older patients. At Exer Urgent Care, we have provided IT training to our staff, empowering them to assist our patients in navigating the new telehealth system.

Lastly, telehealth does require additional training on medical documentation, doctor introductions, and what you can or can’t comment on.

As with any new industry shift, the healthcare system has adapted, and challenges have been overcome. At Exer Urgent Care, we are proud to have deftly integrated the telehealth technology to meet and address today’s patient concerns. With the availability of in-person care and the flexibility provided by telehealth, our ability to provide care continues to expand.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress telehealth challenges?

Telehealth can be a great tool for healthcare providers to use. However, as mentioned, there is one vital aspect to be aware of and augmentation of care that is needed. It is very important to understand that many diagnoses are inappropriate for telehealth and thus the creation of a front-end triage followed by directions to an appropriate in-person location, including emergency rooms, is incorporated into each session as needed.

Exer has navigated the above limitation in several ways. We have a triage system in place that redirects patients with a certain set of predetermined chief complaints or conditions for an immediate in-person visit to any of our 21 facilities and/or local emergency room partners. Additionally, we utilize our robust network of clinics for diagnosis testing, laceration repair, x-ray, or further evaluation by a provider if the need arises. The ability to support your telehealth service with capable top-tier medical staff, either in-house or outsourced, is the key to success of the telehealth care system.

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?

We’ve all experienced “screen freeze” or “choppy sound” during video calls. As you can imagine, this is incredibly disruptive when you are in the middle of an important medical discussion. Improvements in internet speed and bandwidth have been key in making telehealth a viable option.

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

Hologram imaging and advanced interfaces are improving and will make it feel like we are in the same room. One quote that rings true to this forward vision is “We are living in the world of science fiction, it’s just not commercially available yet.” There are technological advancements being developed in numerous fields that will revolutionize how doctors and patients interact. This leapfrog technology is not too far off, and I suspect that it will be available in a robust, prolific way, for both doctors and at-home patients.

Additionally, we are seeing tech-forward medical diagnostic tools currently on the market, albeit for specialty needs, that facilitate self-administered vital recordings from the comfort of the patient’s residence. Eventually these testing tools will evolve and become as commonplace as the traditional thermometer in every home medicine cabinet. Once it reaches an affordable price point and wider consumer accessibility, these tools can help doctors provide an expanded range of medical care via telehealth.

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?

While telehealth creates incredible convenience, it can also be tempting to try and multitask while on the call. To obtain the full benefits of telehealth, phone appointments require the patient to be an active participant and fully engage with medical staff through detailed conversations. You shouldn’t be driving or checking emails, however strong the urge may be. That level of engagement, alongside avoiding bandwidth issues while driving for example, is fundamental to maximizing the effectiveness of the telehealth visit.

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 love the idea of Oculus and Google Glasses, which haven’t taken off quite yet in the healthcare space, but I foresee adoption very soon. This technology could lead to patients experiencing doctor appointments in an AR or VR setting, complete with visuals of vital tracking, x-ray results and other such examples that speak directly to the patient’s immediate health concerns.

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

An immediate concern is the reversal of the tremendous progress achieved in the public adoption of telehealth as supported by insurance providers. At the start of 2020, we saw resistance to adoption because of a lack of reimbursement by insurance partners. With the state of California now mandating telehealth reimbursement to align with in-person appointment policies, we have seen a large shift in adoption rates. As the state continues to reopen, we hope to see the mandate remain.

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. 🙂

I am excited to be a part of the change needed within the urgent care and emergent service business model. At Exer Urgent Care, we are defining what patients can expect when faced with health concerns by reducing ER visits through convenient and proven solutions available at our clinics.

Exer Urgent Care can treat roughly 80% of the cases seen in ERs, so we encourage patients to consider the urgent care model over traditional emergency rooms. Through this collective shift in usage, we can help ease the strain on over-utilized and over-capacity emergency departments in our communities. Additionally, with the ER being one of the most expensive care models, urgent care facilities like Exer can help reduce financial strains commonly associated with emergent issues.

By addressing the need for ER alternatives that offer patients expanded medical services, Exer Urgent Care leads innovation through affordable, convenient, and comprehensive health care.

How can our readers further follow your work online? — Website and social

@ExerUrgentCare on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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