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When a doctor tells a person that they are terminally ill, that moment likely begins the most difficult chapter of a person’s life. What happens after they get this news? Usually, they are left to process, move forward, and follow instructions they barely understand. But there are doctors out there who specialize in something known as “palliative care,” a multidisciplinary medical practice that focuses on empowering people with serious illness during this time in their lives to support them with the best quality of life possible.
You may be asking yourself, “What does Zoom have to do with all of this?”
Meet Dr. Michael Fratkin, a palliative care doctor who heads a organization called ResolutionCare, which recently started with a bounce from a crowdfunding campaign. ResolutionCare is actually two tandem organizations: a clinical practice and a nonprofit educational initiative. On the clinical side, the organization is composed of an inspired and dedicated team of professionals who engage in house calls with people who are experiencing serious and often life-limiting illness. At home and on their own terms, “patients” become “people!” Dr. Fratkin and the ResolutionCare team address symptoms and solve problems, but mostly provide the guidance needed when no one else is there to guide them along the way. As you may have already guessed, this situation gets a bit complicated when you factor in the patients who live far away from Dr. Fratkin and the rest of the care team.
To resolve the distance issue, ResolutionCare adopted video conferencing to communicate with patients in their homes. Dr. Fratkin’s solution of choice was Zoom. We had a chance to sit down and speak to Dr. Fratkin about his organization and the way it approaches palliative care.
“We are using Zoom’s platform to extend our reach patients in their homes when they are not hospitalized,” he said. “Essentially, we are using technology to restore the tradition of house calls, which is a contextual container for seeing people as people, not as patients.”
ResolutionCare’s program works in a two-fold strategy. On one hand, they have a clinical operation, which focuses on telemedicine and at-home visits for individual people with serious illness. On the other, they provide professional education and guidance to other professionals on how to better cater to the needs of their patients, teaching basic palliative care skills. The non-profit teaching side of their operations is focused through Zoom in partnership with Project ECHO from the University of New Mexico.
“And it actually works!” said Dr. Fratkin, “Most people are surprised that it is even possible to take care of people who are very sick in their homes, and you can do it without ever having to have a physical presence by engaging in a relational dimension using this technology.”
Telemedicine is a growing trend, and it’s looking like this is going to be spurred further by more innovations in the market and provisions that allow for healthcare providers to see their patients remotely while still complying with regulations. This technology, when applied correctly, can be convenient for the doctor, the purchaser, and the patient. Imagine being too sick to drive to your doctor’s, but not sick enough to have an ambulance take you to the emergency room. In this case, it is definitely more convenient to have software like Zoom that instantly transports you in front of a doctor as opposed to having to travel to achieve the same end.
Right now, Dr. Fratkin is able to communicate with his patients from his mobile device from any location. The reassurance that he is always there is as much a convenience to the people under his care as it is convenient for him to meet without having to travel. Since Zoom is also very easy to set up, there are very few obstacles that stand in the way of patients getting appropriate and timely care at the moments that they need it most.
It may seem like a tall order to establish a healthcare-oriented organization that revolves around the use of video, but during the few months that ResolutionCare has operated, it seems to be working very well. In the future, we will be following up with Dr. Fratkin to check on his progress with Zoom and what other situations he has encountered during this crucial phase.
Our hope is that Zoom continues to grow relationships with organizations like ResolutionCare to get services that matter to the doorsteps of people who are in need. This is one particular service where quality of life is affected by the way in which it is executed. Zoom is a tool that helps facilitate the necessary bond between doctor and patient, which is more crucial in situations like palliative care, and it does this in a way that removes the gadgetry and focuses on the human connection established.