MCPHS Program Director Kristy Altongy-Magee, DScPAS, PA-C on the Certificate in Telehealth Practice
Kristy Altongy-Magee, DScPAS, PA-C details her professional experience in telehealth, the future of this discipline, the type of professional who would benefit most from obtaining the Certificate in Telehealth Practice, and what makes the MCPHS certificate unique.
What is your own experience in telehealth?
My experience in telehealth has involved initiatives that were developed for very specific areas of care where diagnosis and treatment were time-sensitive and/or access to a specialist was not available. For example, with telestroke units, a specialized team of health providers can assess a patient—at a distance from the originating site in the patient’s community hospital—by providing a rapid virtual examination and recommend the level of care required. I found the application of telestroke units to be fascinating in the facilitation and support of care and outcomes. Another example is the development of tele-ICU units, which support community hospitals by enabling 24/7 monitoring, managing, and guiding care of critically ill patients by teams of health specialist providers at a distance from the originating site in the patient’s community hospital. I have seen the use of telehealth expand over time for my patients in various specialty areas of medicine, such as dermatology, cardiology, emergency medicine and many more. For example, a patient or as a consulting provider utilizes telehealth by uploading an image of a skin condition for the dermatologist to view at a later point as an asynchronous telehealth modality. Another example of telehealth practice is the use of a synchronous telehealth modality, such as for videoconference visits. Videoconference visits are often used in psychiatry to preserve the privacy and stigma of the patient and because the nature of the encounter is less reliant on the physical examination for this patient population. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has expanded across all specialties, communities, and institutions, ensuring safe and continued care. Today, we see highly developed and interactive patient healthcare platforms which are used to educate patients and engage patients in examination summary and results; inform patients of appointments, bloodwork and diagnostic imaging results; look up costs of care and provide payments; upload images or converse with providers remotely; and access and participate in videoconference visits. I would have loved to have had the opportunity as a practicing provider to enroll in a telehealth certificate program, as the application of learned content in these courses is highly valuable for any practice and any patient population.
Who would benefit most from completing the Certificate in Telehealth Practice program? How might the certificate help their careers?
Any healthcare professional or healthcare administrator will benefit from this telehealth certificate program, but healthcare professionals who provide direct patient care will benefit most from completing it. As a healthcare provider, we have an obligation to continue our medical education and remain up to date on advances in technology that support delivery of care. Lifelong learning is an integral part of practicing medicine. Therefore, professional development in the area of telehealth will provide you with the knowledge and skills to navigate the changing landscape of healthcare effectively, support and improve the health system’s efficiency, improve access to care, and provide personalized care.
Why is telehealth an important part of patient care?
Telehealth is an important part of patient care because it provides access to care in communities lacking resources or in areas where specialists may not be readily available. Telehealth allows providers the opportunity to monitor patient care continuously, collaboratively and interprofessionally. Telehealth also provides opportunities to better inform patients on health conditions in various ways, such as through more accessible patient education materials, connection with virtual support groups, and communication of motivational text and emails –These in turn improve patient engagement and ultimately their care. In addition, telehealth enhances the privacy of care and convenience of care, as well as the safety and continuation of care at a distance during a public health emergency. At the conclusion of this telehealth certificate program, I am certain you will have a better appreciation of how to apply telehealth into your workflow to enhance delivery of care to patients; to create opportunities for cost savings and provide collaborative care; and to improve access to care, patient satisfaction, engagement, and outcomes.
What are the current and future career opportunities in this area? Where do you see telehealth heading in the future?
We need to transform the way we make connections and engage with patients. We need to transform the way we monitor and care for patients. By use of the technology available, we have an opportunity to collect and analyze information and collaborate interprofessionally. The future of care involves leveraging telehealth to be proactive and predict behavior patterns and trends, to provide preventive care education to patients, and to better manage acute and chronic conditions with continuous and collaborative care. By enrolling in the telehealth certificate program, you will learn how to integrate telehealth into everyday care to better support health system efficiencies, access to care, and personalized care.
What makes this certificate program unique compared to other programs that are offered by other universities throughout the United States?
The academic caliber of this online continuing medical education (CME) telehealth certificate program is unique because of the many opportunities participants will have to apply the telehealth content that they learn to their respective clinical settings. Furthermore, they will have opportunities to engage and share telehealth practice ideas, create support systems and networking prospects with other participants in the course, and ask questions and discuss experiences with fellow health professionals and telehealth experts. This program goes beyond the standard Powerpoint presentation to also include discussion boards, live sessions for Q&A with telehealth experts, access to thought-provoking telehealth practice articles, and access to the LinkedIn networking page.