Arizona Telemedicine May 2014 - Page 21

Teri Dunn, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker based in Flagstaff. She has been working with behavioral health patients for 34 years – 12 of them with North Country HealthCare, a community health center through which she sees patients from across northern Arizona. “I started working with telemedicine about three years ago, and in the beginning, I had some concerns,” Ms. Dunn says. “I’m not very good with technology, so I worried about feeling foolish and helpless. But I received really good training, and it’s very simple now. Sue Sisley, MD, has shown that telemedicine is a good option even for a physician based in the nation’s sixth-largest city. After getting her medical degree from the University of Arizona College of Medicine in 1995, she completed a five-year residency in internal medicine and psychiatry at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix. She chose the dual specialties, she says, because “I saw early in my training how much mental health affects patients’ physical health.” “I also was not sure I could make a real connection with my patients without seeing them in person. I was afraid I would not be able to read their body language, that kind of stuff. But now, it feels like that’s not a problem either.” After her residency, she went into private practice with her mother, Hanna Sisley, MD, a family practitioner. The motherdaughter team shared an office in Maryvale. Ms. Dunn sees patients four days a week – one day via telemedicine for patients who live a long distance from Flagstaff, and three days in her office, with patients who live in the Flagstaff area. The younger Dr. Sisley quickly discovered that, as much as she loved the practice of medicine, she grew weary of the time and paperwork required to work with Medicare, Medicaid, and all her patients’ private health plans. Two of her patients rejected the telemedicine option, she says. “Others just forget that they’re talking to a television screen. One patient even commented that the remote connection made it easier for her to talk about her alcohol problem, rather than being in the same room with me”. So she set up a small office in her Scottsdale home, and outfitted it with telemedicine videoconferencing equipment, and dropped all insurance plans. Privately insured patients now pay out-of-pocket for appointments via telemedicine, usually during evening and weekend hours, since most of the patients work. Overall, Ms. Dunn says, teleme