Miramont Family Medicine, a group practice in the Fort Collins, Colorado area, makes a compelling promise to its patients: “@Miramont Family Medicine we make healthcare affordable, accessible, accountable®.” To the practice’s CEO, John Bender, MD, this pledge is personal. As the business expanded in size and scope, he began to explore opportunities with telemedical solutions, and ultimately landed on telepresence technology to best serve his needs. We recently caught up with Dr. Bender to discuss how he uses Beam for next-level facetime, what a typical day looks like for him, and how using Beam translates into better patient care (literally).
Q: What problems drove you to seek out a telemedicine experience for your medical practice?
A: Miramont Family Medicine has four offices with staff and patients in each location. Finding the time to be physically present where and when I’m needed can be difficult. I was looking for a better way to connect with patients and staff when I’m in one place and they’re in another that wouldn’t require the person on the other end to answer a call or otherwise facilitate, especially when a phone call just wasn’t enough. Beam gives me face-to-face time with everyone I need to speak with in real-time regardless of my location, and I can run the software even with the smartphone app.
Q: How do you use Beam at your various locations?
A: Our Beams are parked in their space-efficient, charging “docks” near where the other staff sits. I can login from my computer or phone from wherever I am (assuming I have an internet connection, which I pretty much always do) and drive the Beam around the office for up to eight hours at a time without needing a charge. There’s nothing special that others have to do to converse with me when I “beam in,” they just speak with me as they would normally. The audio and video are clear, even when there’s a lot of noise in the background.
Q: What are the use-cases you have employed Beam for (clinical and otherwise)?
A: My staff and I started with remote consultations for patients with our psychologist, clinical pharmacist and nutritionist in the remote mountain town of Fairplay. We then expanded to family physicians with chronic disease cases (i.e. diabetes, hypertension), and have since overseen fiberglass cast removals, presented at weight loss clinics, provided buprenorphine/addiction clinic follow up, and given instructions for kidney infection care, just to name a few. I also regularly use my Beams for acute consults when I’m not on-site, such as after-hours or during a Saturday clinic. I’ve also given speeches to County Medical Societies via Beam. Other providers in my clinic have used the Beam to deliver ASL (American Sign Language).
Q: What goals has using telepresence technology helped you achieve?
A: The results are astounding. Our record to date is thirteen patients in one day, and these are patients wouldn’t have been seen that day had it hadn’t been for Beam. For patients, this expands opportunities to encounter me when I am out of town or otherwise would not be available to them: they still come to our clinic where they have lab tests run, X-rays taken, nursing procedures performed like certain injections, cast removal, etc. With the Beams, however, I can securely and easily review all charting, vitals, and test results remotely while still communicating “face to face” in real time. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this without Beam telepresence or in the same manner just by telephone.
Q: What makes robotic telepresence, in your opinion, more effective than, say, conventional videoconferencing or a phone call, in a clinic setting?
A: Healthcare is a profession that provides a personal service, so it’s vital to me that I can establish my presence in the location I’m needed. It adds that extra touch that helps my staff and me be more effective at our jobs, and it simultaneously makes patients feel comfortable and secure knowing they’re getting personal service, much more than just a voice call.
There’s so much going on in my offices and clinics each day; having telepresence technology allows me to worry less about driving from one location to another and enables me to stay focused on providing quality care. Whether it’s after-hour emergencies, acute care consults in the clinics during normal hours, or even giving speeches at location I wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise, I can be where I need to be, when I need to be there.
This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity. For more on Miramont Family Health Care’s use of telepresence technology, please see “Telemedicine robot enables physician consultations in multiple locations,” in Healthcare IT News.