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Telehealth Best Practices: Dr J Mack Slaughter Of Let’s Talk Interactive On How To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You

An Interview With Luke Kervin

Ask open-ended questions. It’s easy to forget our training and ask yes or no questions, especially when simultaneously documenting the encounter, but we all know important details can be lost this way. Similar to conducting a patient interview in person, ask open-ended questions so the patient has time to explore their answers and share those important details.

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. J Mack Slaughter.

Dr. J Mack Slaughter, MD is an emergency medicine physician in the North Texas area. After studying neuroscience as an undergraduate, Dr. Slaughter earned his medical degree at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. He then did residency training at the busiest emergency department in the country, Parkland Hospital.

Dr. Slaughter sees the need for innovation on a daily basis. With hospitals at capacity and burned-out staff leaving the medical field daily, the necessity of integrating telemedicine solutions has never been more clear. Dr. Slaughter is honored to bring his knowledge and experience in medicine and entertainment to help the medical field evolve through his board position on Let’s Talk Interactive.

He has also found a way to successfully fuse his passion for entertainment with his experience in the medical field. With over 85 million views since he started posting videos online in January 2021, Dr. Slaughter has been educating the public using his unique blend of energy, humor, and medical facts. He has earned nearly 450,000 followers across social media platforms and continues this exponential growth daily.

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 grew up in a musical family. At the age of three, I was performing on stage with my sisters and my father. I was involved in the theater and at one point I toured with a pop music group for a few years before moving to LA to work in TV and film. After acting in a few TV shows and a feature film, I realized I needed something more stable and challenging as a long-term career. I chose to go into medicine because that was the thing, I could least see myself doing and that was exciting to me!

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

Working in the emergency department, I’ve seen countless interesting cases. One story that comes to mind is when a patient came to the emergency department complaining that her sinuses were draining down into her stomach and causing abdominal pain. On her exam, her abdominal wall was jutting outward–almost like a mass or a hernia but none was there.

It turned out that her sinuses really were causing all her problems. She was having sinus issues and recurrently overdosed on Benadryl, which caused her bladder to retain urine for an entire week!!! Her bladder filled up her whole abdominal cavity and it was pushing out of the normal bounds of the abdominal wall!!!

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

“Don’t let perfection stand in the way of greatness.” This was a self-realized quote, but there are many versions of this concept out there.

Growing up, especially in entertainment, I used to be such a perfectionist that it could be paralyzing. Once I realized perfection was the enemy of greatness, I cut myself a little slack I was amazed at all the awesome things I could achieve.

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?

A lot of people helped me get to where I am. In fact, generations of family supported me and allowed me to have the confidence and financial security to feel like I could shoot for the moon in life.

One person, in particular, who really inspired me to go into medicine is my sister. She’s an ER nurse. After listening to so many of her insane stories from work, I realized that I wanted to be a part of them!! I wanted to live those stories. So I said, “I guess I’m going to medical school.”

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?

I’ll start by saying that the benefits of telehealth far outweigh what is lacking. However, if I had to pick one thing it would be the physical exam. For example, the ability to physically press on someone’s abdomen if they have pain there. You can’t yet recreate this experience virtually. There are certain limitations.

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?

There’s something about having a physical presence in a room, especially if you’re sharing difficult news. The ability to be truly present with the patient and allow silence to fill the room while they internalize a condition… it’s difficult to lend that kind of silent support virtually.

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 “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.)

Make sure to connect with each patient on a personal level to develop that same rapport you would in person. This enables you to gain their trust so they will be more likely to adhere to your treatment plan and have a better outcome

Ask open-ended questions. It’s easy to forget our training and ask yes or no questions, especially when simultaneously documenting the encounter, but we all know important details can be lost this way. Similar to conducting a patient interview in person, ask open-ended questions so the patient has time to explore their answers and share those important details.

Watch for visual cues from the patient. This is why access to video is really important when it comes to telehealth. As we all know, many things are communicated without verbal language.

Document more — not less. It’s important to include as much detail as possible in your notes so you can adequately recall the encounter in the future or if they have repeat visits.

Get creative with the physical exam! Most of us weren’t trained to do virtual medicine and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a fairly recent concept!! For example, instead of being able to look in someone’s outer ear canal with an otoscope to confirm our suspicion for otitis externa (aka swimmer’s ear), we can have them put their pinky in their ear canal. Is it much more painful on one side?? Is the canal much smaller on one side?? You get the picture!

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 most obvious, extremely important benefit of telehealth is decreasing distance to healthcare. Patients who are otherwise extremely limited geographically — in some cases living half a state away from the nearest provider — can now access things like a routine primary or urgent care visit without spending a whole day traveling! They can utilize telehealth to get their diagnosis and prescription in minutes.

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 ability to have high-definition visual streaming in addition to audio has made telehealth a much more feasible option for replacing in-person visits.

Also, advanced digital devices that are able to connect to telehealth software enable providers to get real-time bioanalytic from a patient, which absolutely takes the encounter to the next level!

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

The perfect telehealth system to support my patients would be one that is secure, simple, seamless to use, and customizable for the type of care being delivered. I sit on the board of Let’s Talk Interactive, a telehealth solution provider that does just that. LTI has developed software that is applicable to multiple types of practices while also being customizable to meet very niche needs throughout the healthcare world.

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?

I wish patients were more aware of the importance of secure connections when it comes to telehealth and personal health information. When the pandemic hit, some providers turned to whatever teleconferencing software was most readily available to connect with patients. Many of these platforms are not built for HIPAA-compliant use and are NOT secure.

Patients assume that their information is safe with their providers, but the unfortunate truth is that it may not be!! When using a secure platform like LTI, personal medical information is stored and transmitted safely and in compliance with HIPAA. You don’t have to worry about confidential information getting into the hands of the wrong people or organizations.

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?

Augmented reality is extremely exciting to me. Think about it — surgeons in training can put on AR glasses to help identify certain structures that may be very difficult to identify with the human eye alone. Down the line, I want to see us be able to make eye contact with the patient but also have access to their information in the same visual — such as prior hospital visits, vital signs, without having to turn away from the patient and toward a computer. It’s only a matter of time before the world of AR and healthcare collide.

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

I’m concerned that a potential future of healthcare replaced doctors and nurses with emotionless machines or software. I think that there is a human need to connect with other humans to discuss complicated medical diagnoses and the ramifications of those diagnoses as they pertain to someone’s life and future. If it’s some machine doing this or Dr. Google is giving you your final diagnosis, there will be a lot of unanswered questions and people will be left with an unsettling feeling.

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. :-)

I would start a movement to address the lack of affordability within the healthcare system. Where everyone, regardless of their tax bracket, would have access to quality healthcare and not have to choose between their health and their ability to pay their bills.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on Tik Tok

Instagram

https://letstalkinteractive.com/

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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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Luke Kervin, Co-Founder of PatientPop

Luke Kervin, Co-Founder of PatientPop

Luke Kervin is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of PatientPop, an award-winning practice growth technology platform.

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