As telehealth continues to evolve, ways to improve the tele-rheumatology experience for both patients and MAVEN’s volunteer rheumatologists exist, says Dr. Upchurch.
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Explore This IssueApril 2018
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“We plan on doing some webinars with the medical staff at community clinics and to train community clinic practitioners on how to perform joint exams on patients to complement the volunteer physician’s video consult,” Dr. Upchurch says.
Frederick Anderson, MD, assistant professor and medical director for the Department of Humanities, Health & Society at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in University Park, Fla., just began partnering with MAVEN on a rheumatology telehealth project. Although rheumatologists do practice in South Florida, Dr. Anderson notes they are generally not accessible to uninsured patients.
“There’s a long wait through the local public hospital for various specialists, which is not uncommon nationwide for uninsured patients,” Dr. Anderson says. “Working with MAVEN allows us to access specialty expertise for our uninsured and underserved patients in a faster manner.”
The partnership also allows clinics, such as Dr. Anderson’s, that care for patients with complex rheumatologic conditions to get specialty consults and feedback on cases that may appear hard to treat.
“We are presently focusing on advisory consults via telemedicine with specialists that deal strictly with de-identified patient information,” Dr. Anderson says. “I’ve spoken with a MAVEN rheumatologist regarding patient cases involving conditions such as suspected lupus with elevated ANA levels and questions regarding next steps for diagnosis, fibromyalgia management questions, as well as general questions regarding appropriate interpretation of elevated antibody levels like ANA or RF.”
Volunteering & a Social Outlet
The idea for MAVEN was first conceived while Dr. Green was serving as president of the Harvard Medical School Alumni Association. As she talked with various alumni, she kept hearing how many doctors who were nearing retirement age wanted to stay active in the medical world, but had no place to volunteer. Today, MAVEN attracts a wide range of physicians at various points in their careers.
“Our physician volunteers include retirees, those who are semi-retired or taking a break from their careers, and even industry and private practice doctors who want to lend their expertise to vulnerable patient populations,” says Jill Einstein, MD, an internist and director of physician engagement for the MAVEN Project. “We look for physicians who can commit to volunteering a minimum of four hours a month for at least six months.”
Dr. Green says MAVEN is unique in that it offers a community of volunteer physicians with altruistic motives who may not want to travel to remote regions with such organizations as Doctors Without Borders, but who do want to contribute their expertise to the greater good for a few hours a week.