Healthy Outlook: Physician offers telemedicine services in new Lawrence clinic
photo by: Dr. Fatima Khan/Contributed Photos
The future of medicine is here and now. More specifically, it’s at a new clinic near 25th and Iowa streets.
Dr. Fatima Khan has spent the last five years working with Veterans Affairs, and she recently decided to open a private practice in Lawrence. However, the care she provides won’t be limited to the patients she sees within the walls of her clinic — she is also integrating telemedicine.
House calls from doctors are fairly uncommon these days, but consider this the 21st-century version. The internet-based “visits” with doctors that telemedicine allows are still relatively new, but Khan said interest has significantly increased in the last couple of years.
“It is more consumer-driven, where patients can see the doctor from home, or maybe they’re in college or at work,” Khan said.
The goal is not to replace office visits entirely, but rather to offer an alternative that’s more accessible in several ways. Firstly, telemedicine visits eliminate the barrier of physically traveling to an appointment. For anyone who has difficulty leaving their homes or accessing transportation, the video chat appointments mean Khan can see you in the comfort of your own home. Plus, she can see patients throughout the state of Kansas.
“There is a lot of utility and there is a lot of advantage of having that access to medical care available, especially in rural areas where there may be only one doctor in town,” Khan said.
Even if transportation is not an issue, time can be. Khan said that in Lawrence, she sees that there are a lot of students, full-time workers, and parents trying to take care of kids. Many people can’t easily leave their 9-to-5 obligations unless it’s completely necessary — so they don’t see a doctor until they have to.
There is no concern of insurance, or lack thereof. Khan is offering telemedicine appointments at a flat rate of $79. She said she has dealt firsthand with the uncertainty of what to expect when you get a bill from an office visit — and the triple-digit sums that can make you wonder why you have insurance in the first place.
“I’m hoping that even the patients who are uninsured, this will help increase the access for them, and they’ll be encouraged to seek medical care in a timely manner,” she said. “At the very least, I can direct them what they need to do next. If they need to be referred, I’ll be able to do that.”
She will accept insurance for telemedicine visits in the future, but patients would still have the option of paying the flat rate, she said.
Khan is an internist, which means she’s trained primarily to care for adult patients. She will see patients in person and accept most major insurance plans at Unity Medical Clinic, 2201 W. 25th St., Unit U. That’s just behind the strip off Iowa Street that is home to Office Depot and Planet Fitness.
Khan said she’ll have to look at everything on a case-by-case basis, and not every health issue can be handled through telemedicine appointments, but she provided several examples that can.
One service she hopes to provide via telemedicine is management of chronic health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart failure, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
For instance, she said patients may be seen in the clinic for an issue such as high blood pressure and be prescribed medication to help treat it. Typically, those patients would have or purchase their own automatic blood pressure cuffs to use for home-monitoring, and they would keep logs of their readings so they can share the data with their doctor at their next in-office appointment. Follow-up visits are necessary in these sorts of circumstances, but Khan said those visits could be held through telemedicine.
“(Telemedicine) increases compliance for the patients because they can be seen without taking a day off from work,” Khan said. “So it can be used in many different ways for many different conditions.”
Patients don’t necessarily have to have Khan as their primary care doctor for telemedicine visits. She can provide care that way for issues such as colds, or other fast-track visits that people might go to urgent care centers to treat. She will have patients’ detailed medical histories through an electronic medical records system, and she can ask the same questions physicians would ask about symptoms in office visits. She said most patients own thermometers and can report their temperatures during their telemedicine visits. The video conferencing enables her to see (and hear) the physical symptoms, such as coughing and rashes.
Another scenario: Say, for instance, that you have plans to leave town in the morning for an extended vacation. As you’re packing, you realize you don’t have enough of your medication left to get you through your travels, but your doctor is unavailable. Khan would likely be able to help, even if you haven’t been to her practice before. There are several ways she can verify prescriptions, and she would be able to send them electronically.
Of course Khan will exercise clinical judgment, and some more serious conditions will still require an in-person visit to her clinic, or to urgent care or the emergency room, but she would be able to help make that determination. She said there is a wide range of telemedicine options — some very technologically sophisticated — in use in fields such as skilled nursing and critical care, but her focus is on outpatient care.
For the e-appointments, first-time patients will need to call the office at 785-371-1307. After that, you’ll be able to log into a patient portal through teleclinicusa.org. Once your appointment is set, you’ll get an access code via email. That code will allow you to enter a virtual waiting room up to 15 minutes before your scheduled time. When Khan is ready, she’ll connect with you. Any type of device — smartphone, tablet, laptop — will do.
Khan is board certified in internal medicine. She is also a fellow of the American College of Physicians as well as the American College of Osteopathic Internists, and she is a member of the American Telemedicine Association.
Khan said she wants to keep her hours flexible so that she can provide telemedicine care when it’s most useful for patients.
“I’m very excited about this, and I’m hoping this will help the community,” she said.
Khan said she has “pretty much 95 percent” of the fledgling business ready to go, but she is accepting patients now. She’s also planning an official ribbon-cutting (with cookies and drinks) for 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 29 at Unity Medical Clinic. Dr. April Harris, who provides acupuncture and osteopathic services, and chiropractor Travis Sullivan will also offer services at the clinic.
About Healthy Outlook
Healthy Outlook is a column written by Journal-World reporter and Health section editor Mackenzie Clark, in hopes of helping readers make their lives a little bit happier, healthier and more active.
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