By Pritam Ghosh, M.D.
Access TeleCare Chief Medical Officer

Needs push us to innovate. What are the challenges your patients are facing today? What are the needs that are pressing you and/or your facility? What can you invent or what has already been invented and just needs to be harnessed? Be unafraid to innovate, change, and partner with others who are unafraid of the same. If you do, you can turn challenges into very rewarding and fulfilling successes solving age-old problems.

Embarking on the path of healthcare management has been a transformative journey for me, marked by a profound realization that needs serve as the driving force for innovation. I have navigated the intricate landscape of healthcare, particularly in the realm of telemedicine, finding inspiration in challenges, and deriving fulfillment from the relentless pursuit of inventive solutions. As I reflect on my experiences, I extend an invitation to fellow healthcare professionals to delve into their challenges, embrace innovation fearlessly, and usher in a new era of patient-centric care.

Be the Change: A Telemedicine Odyssey

My journey unfolds in a small rural hospital in Sulphur Springs, Texas in 2013. They regularly received critical care patients that could be initially cared for by us during normal working hours, but coverage was inconsistent after hours and on weekends. The hospital was forced to transfer these patients to other facilities, often two to three hours away. This was extremely disruptive to the continuity of care for the patients as well as to the comfort and convenience of their families. It was also a financial loss for the hospital. The hospital needed a way to provide consistent, daily critical care services for their patients thereby keeping both the care and their families local.

It was in the face of these challenges that a crucial question emerged between Dr. Christopher Gallagher and I: “What if we did something different?” Our training taught us the importance of always striving for excellence in clinical care and to think outside the box. This inquiry became the genesis of a telemedicine platform designed to seamlessly integrate virtual critical care into the hospital. Rather than waiting for others to find a solution, we decided to create the solution.

Breaking through the virtual barrier became a focal point, ensuring that telemedicine wasn’t a detached experience for the patient, but a genuine extension of the medical team. We wanted to create an environment that replicated the experience of in-person, bed-side care as seamlessly as possible.

We were intentional in seeking to create a care delivery model and a culture that sought to integrate into the fabric of the local medical community to create clinical partnerships. Yes, we have a cart that can be rolled around with all the bells and whistles, but it’s also about the clinicians being consistently and readily available when needed and interacting with the on-site medical staff in a collaborative and collegial way – becoming a true extension of the medical team.

The platform has evolved tremendously since 2013, embracing technological advancements, integrating seamlessly with EMRs, and expanding to eight specialties. But all of this has occurred while aligning with our original vision of service – to reimagine the experience of virtual specialty care while creating lasting clinical partnerships.

A Passion for Education Led to Clinical Leadership

Continuing with the theme of innovation and change, I realized early on in my career that I had a real passion for teaching the next generation of clinicians the knowledge and lore of how to care for patients. After completing my Fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care, I immediately got on the educational track as an assistant professor of medicine with a focus on interstitial lung disease and pulmonary hypertension.

However, as our telemedicine practice started to develop and mature, my ability to lead clinical teams on teaching rounds diminished more and more. I still had the passion, but it had to evolve. Thankfully, my role with Access TeleCare enabled me to still pursue educating others in a slightly different way, with potentially even more impact. Now, I get the privilege of guiding client hospitals and their clinical departments on how to better take care of their patients by leveraging the latest technological and care delivery design innovations. I get to enjoy the experience of implementing a new tech-enabled care delivery program that a hospital has never had before and watch it save and change lives.

Thus, in an unexpected manner, a career in business development and clinical leadership followed naturally from my career in clinical practice and education at an academic center. The joy and passion for education remains albeit in a different venue. Moving into an administrative leadership position allowed me to teach and to mentor future clinical leaders on how to model their clinical practices, to deliver clinical excellence, and to continue advancing and innovating. To do so in parallel to advising client hospitals on how to model their services for there to be a seamless integration of their services with ours all the while ensuring that they are getting a return on their investment with us, provides me with a lot of professional satisfaction and fulfills my desire to educate others. I think the day I stop being able to teach others is the day you’ll see me sign off and start traveling the world!

Paving the Way for Future Innovations

I’m continually motivated by the changes I can see occurring in the communities that we serve. As we introduce tech-enabled care, it elevates hospitals’ ability to provide access to high-quality specialty providers who are delivering timely clinical care grounded in excellence. It is truly

special to watch a community get revitalized because of their ability to provide this kind of care to their families, allowing us to help them keep care local and mitigate the disruptive forces of transfers.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, the call to innovate becomes more imperative than ever. By reflecting on challenges, embracing change, and fostering collaboration, we can collectively pave the way for future innovations.

I’ve found my path, I’ve enjoyed the ride, and I look forward to what the future holds. I’ll leave where I started. “Needs always push us to innovate.” This mantra becomes a rallying cry, urging healthcare professionals to reflect on their current challenges and needs. I extend an invitation to explore inventive solutions and embrace change fearlessly. In doing so, healthcare leaders can usher in a new era of healthcare delivery, addressing age-old problems and ensuring a more resilient, patient-friendly future.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2024 edition of ACHE of North Texas’ triannual magazine, The Executive Connection.

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