The Physician Spotlight Series is an opportunity to highlight the value and expertise of VirtualMed Staff’s team of physicians. Throughout this series, our goal is to share our physicians’ stories, their journeys with telemedicine, and detail the value and benefits that telemedicine offers to patients across the country.
“Medicine is very different from one place to another, and you’ll never appreciate it unless you turn on your computer and you see someone in a whole different state with an entirely different story.”
Traveling the world is an opportunity to meet new people, experience different cultures, and learn from others. However, if your passion is to travel the world and meet new people, how do you continue to do so once you’ve settled down with a family and children?
For Dr. Maged Botros, the answer wasn’t to bring his family out into the world, but, rather, to bring the world to him. “I realized I couldn’t keep moving because I’m married with kids, so I started to think about what I could do from home,” says Dr. Botros. “Thanks to telepsychiatry, I can travel across time zones and state borders just by turning on my computer.”
Dr. Botros is a telepsychiatrist with VirtualMed Staff serving on several telemedicine physician panels across the country. After living in both Egypt and the United Kingdom, Dr. Botros ultimately settled down in the United States. That’s where he discovered telemedicine as an opportunity to blend two of his biggest passions: Patient care and interacting with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
In this Physician Spotlight, we highlight Dr. Botros journey to telemedicine and why he views it as a valuable solution to treating some of our most vulnerable patient populations.
Physical practices versus a virtual setting
Traditionally, seeing a psychiatrist meant patients needed to visit a physical location. However, this confines a psychiatrist’s patient population to only those within a specific geographical area. For someone like Dr. Botros, this limitation is ultimately what led him to leave his physical practice and explore telemedicine.
“I realized that a physical practice was limiting,” says Dr. Botros. “I wanted something unlimited, something that I could do that crosses borders, cultures, and provide care for more people than just in my area.”
After starting with VirtualMed Staff, Dr. Botros immediately knew that telepsychiatry was the answer he was searching for, “It matched my personality,” says Dr. Botros. “I’m doing something new, meeting new people, new states, and new cultures.” Despite only seeing patients in the United States, Dr. Botros says the cultural differences across state lines are noticeable and dramatic.
“There are major psychological differences between people who live in crowded cities versus large rural areas,” says Dr. Botros. “Their values are different, how they interact with people, how they view the world,” Dr. Botros continues. “Medicine is very different from one place to another, and you’ll never appreciate it unless you turn on your computer and you see someone in a whole different state with an entirely different story.”
As Dr. Botros continued to treat patients, he realized the impact telemedicine had on some of the most vulnerable patient populations.
“I look at the emergency room as a home”
With nowhere else to turn, thousands of vulnerable patients suffering from mental or behavioral health issues flood the emergency department (ED) each year – some patients more frequently than others. “We call them frequent flyers because they have nowhere else to go to receive treatment and help,” says Dr. Botros.
Despite frequent flyers only representing 4.5% to 8% of all ED patients, frequent flyers account for disproportionately high percentage of all visits, between 21% to 28%. A significant portion of which are individuals with behavioral and social needs. “Telepsychiatry is best for these patients because it’s always available, 24/7, and there are no barriers or wait to be seen.”
“To some, the ED is sort of like a home,” says Dr. Botros, “It’s a place where they can rest, receive a hot meal, medication, and the resources they need to get better.” This is especially beneficial for younger, at-risk patients who enter the ED.
With a background supporting the juvenile justice system and treating vulnerable youth, Dr. Botros is especially aware of the risks associated with younger patients who enter the ED. “Sometimes the ED is the only place where they can eat or sleep, otherwise they’d be outside on the street and fall into trouble.” Treating this vulnerable patient population is rewarding for Dr. Botros because it’s an opportunity to provide access to resources and support to patients who need it the most.
Dr. Botros recalls receiving multiple letters and phone calls from previous patients who he treated virtually, each thanking him for his services and requesting to see him again. “For me it was significant, because it demonstrated that you were able to connect with the patient and provide the resources they needed to get help.”
For any physician considering helping these vulnerable patient populations via telemedicine, Dr. Botros offers this advice, “My best advice is to make sure you connect with patients human to human, and not as an authority figure.”
Telemedicine’s future in hospitals
The coronavirus pandemic proved that telemedicine is a valuable and essential solution for hospitals to increase access to care and improve patient outcomes. But where does telemedicine go from here, and will hospitals continue to expand services and leverage telemedicine moving forward? “I think the pandemic opened up healthcare systems to the concept of telepsychiatry more than it did for the patients,” says Dr. Botros.
Dr. Botros continues, “Patients will accept whatever the hospital will provide in terms of care, but the pandemic helped hospitals realize the magic power of telemedicine because you can have access to clinicians any time you need them.”
As a valued member of VirtualMed Staff’s team of virtual physicians, we’re thankful to Dr. Botros for allowing us to share his story and look forward to sharing more in the future.