By Miriam Packard
In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, the role of technology, specifically Telehealth, which is the means of gaining access to healthcare via technology- on video chats, for example, has gained prominence as a means of providing care. To gain insights into the future of Telehealth and the challenges it presents, the Healthcare Leadership Symposium (HeaLS) hosted a thought-provoking panel discussion Wednesday, Nov. 1, moderated by Dr. Blair Barker, a professor of Health Science at CSUCI. The symposium, initiated by Professor Thomas C. Clobes in the Fall of 2022, aimed to bring healthcare leaders to the campus and foster connections between students and professionals.
Professor Clobes, who played a pivotal role in founding HeaLS, shared his inspiration behind the initiative, “I was inspired by seeing students be successful post-graduation by leveraging relationships with healthcare professionals I helped connect them with from my pre-academic professional experience. I wanted to bring healthcare leaders to campus for more students to benefit from those connections and learn from them.” This vision embodies the essence of HeaLS – bridging the gap between academia and professional experiences.
One of the key outcomes of HeaLS has been the ability of students to arrange professional shadowing and internship opportunities through the professionals who participate as panelists. Professor Clobes emphasized the value of building connections, stating, “When I was a student, I really valued having a connection to my campus community. Even as a faculty member now, that’s something I still try to do.” The symbiotic relationship between students and professionals is a cornerstone of the symposium.
The panel featured experts in the healthcare industry, including Lisa Greene, Senior Director of Digital Transformation at Optum, Joseph Cabaret, triple board-certified in Pain Medicine, Addiction Medicine, and Anesthesiology, and Heidi Kwan, a licensed psychologist with extensive clinical experience.
Dr. Kwan shared her perspective on Telehealth, highlighting its role in providing people with access to healthcare. She noted that Telehealth has resulted in a drop in cancellation and no-show rates, primarily due to the convenience of access. However, she also addressed a significant challenge—absence of body language. Dr. Kwan explained that being unable to observe non-verbal cues has required her to compensate by asking more questions to compensate.
In contrast, Dr. Cabaret expressed concerns about the limitations of Telehealth in building strong patient-provider relationships. He stressed the importance of trust and understanding in patient care, and how these can be hindered when he cannot see a patient’s body language or physically examine them. “It’s a lot harder to build a relationship,” he explained.
Other drawbacks of Telehealth were also addressed, with Dr. Kwan highlighting the challenges faced by older adults who may struggle with new technology. Additionally, the lack of smartphones in some families can impede access to Telehealth services, highlighting disparities that need to be addressed.
Lisa Greene, Senior Director of Digital Transformation at Optum, shared her insights on the future of Telehealth. She pointed out that for Telehealth to truly take off, there needs to be more technical equity. Greene envisioned expanded long-term monitoring options, such as scales that send data directly to doctors or at-home blood pressure cuffs, which would enhance patient care and engagement. She emphasized that people appreciate the benefits of Telehealth, particularly in health education, where it has made a significant impact. Patients diagnosed with chronic conditions like diabetes can attend workshops and classes via Telehealth to learn how to better care for themselves.
Dr. Cabaret concluded the discussion by emphasizing the sacred nature of the doctor-patient relationship. He stressed the importance of cultivating this relationship, which takes effort and time to build.
In summary, HeaLS provided valuable insights into the world of Telehealth, its potential for increasing access to healthcare, and the challenges it poses, particularly in building and maintaining patient-provider relationships. The symposium underscored the importance of fostering connections between students and healthcare professionals to bridge the gap between academia and the real world of healthcare.