March 30, 2017

National Doctors’ Day Feature: Why I Practice Telemedicine

By Dr. Timothy Howard, President, Teladoc Physicians Professional Association

It seems today more than ever, in a healthcare environment embroiled with controversy, the question gets asked, “why become a doctor?”

For me, the answer to that question is the same now as it was just over 30 years ago when I made the choice to go to medical school. And that answer has always been and remains a sincere desire to help people, a true fire in the belly to want to help those who need care.

So when I learned recently that today was National Doctors Day, I was compelled to share my tremendous sense of pride for being a doctor, and my gratitude to the thousands of patients who have entrusted their health to me. More so, I am grateful for telemedicine, the medical tool that has provided me with the ability to expand my reach of care from seeing patients at my local/community practice, to providing the highest quality care for children and adults across the United States.

As a father of four, it was nearly a decade ago when I was watching my oldest children start out on their journey to college. I too was seeking further fulfillment in my career, not to mention endeavoring to find a way to supplement tuitions fees.

What I found was Teladoc. I started by dipping a toe in the water and learning about the delivery of medicine via telemedicine, and then I made the decision for this to be a full time, passionate focus, retiring from my practice. It’s that choice that I can credit for making me an even better doctor, for enabling me to reach and treat significantly more patients, and at the same time, giving me the flexibly to spend quality time with my family while never closing my door to patients. And arguably, that work-life balance contributes to greater career fulfillment and me being a happier and more focused doctor.

When you devote yourself to helping others, you take on the commitment of staying up to date on the latest medical advancements and treatments to assure yourself and your patients that you are providing the best care. That is no small task, and as a single practitioner, that responsibility was mine alone. As part of Teladoc, I’m part of the mindshare of 3100 – board certified – physicians. There is also the corporate governing oversight – unrivaled by any medical institution. Guidelines from the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, the CDC and more are continually reviewed, and formal telemedicine practice guidelines are developed and administered. We are matching the standard of care to make sure our patients receive the highest standard of care.

The experience of helping my patients in my local practice is one I will forever cherish. I spent decades helping local families, and now it’s an incredible opportunity to help families thousands of miles away from me. When I’m talking and video conferencing with these patients, I’m not thinking about the next patient in my waiting room or having other office interruptions. I’ve focused on them, for as long as they need.

These sentiments are not mine alone. When I talk to many of the other physicians in this great network of more than 3100 medical professionals across the country, I hear very similar tales from them.

So on National Doctors Day, I found it fitting to express gratitude not just for myself but for the thousands of other doctors who I know feel the same way. First, thank you to all the patients who have put their trust in me and in them. And thank you to telemedicine, for enabling us to expand our reach of care and continue to fulfill the passion for helping others.

If you’re a physician who would like to learn more about joining the Teladoc team, you can read more about the Teladoc provider experience.