AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


AcuteCare Chief Operating Officer Dr. Keith A. Sanders Providing Quality Care In His Hometown

0924 Dr Sanders

For Dr. Keith A. Sanders, it is a pleasure to care for patients locally and worldwide, from his hometown of Atlanta, GA.

“One patient recently told me, ‘The last time I saw you, you were up at Lake Lanier in your father’s arms’,” Dr. Sanders says. “It’s a small world and Atlanta has grown a lot. But it’s nice to have a connection with people like that.”

The homegrown physician is President of Atlanta Neurology and Chief Operating Officer of AcuteCare Telemedicine.

Healing others is part of Dr. Sanders’ heritage. His uncle was a general surgeon and his grandfather and other uncle were dentists. “My grandfather got me summer jobs at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, working in the operating room,” Dr. Sanders remembers. For him, medicine was a natural career choice, “and I’m glad I made it.”

Dr. Sanders graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, and went on to medical school at Emory University. He completed his Neurology residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. His fellowship in Neuromuscular Disease was at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. He is board-certified in Neurology, Electro Diagnostic Medicine, and has subspecialty certification in Vascular Neurology. He is director and founder of the Stroke Center of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta and former chairman of the Ethics Resource Committee.

“I was drawn to the brain and nervous system,” Dr. Sanders says of his choosing Neurology. “There was a lot of fertile ground there. A lot of enigmas and curiosity to pursue.”

Dr. Sanders and wife, Theresa, a nurse and a cardiology research coordinator at Emory University Hospital, have had robust discussions, “about which organ is more important – the heart or the brain,” he says. “We’ve decided they are both important.”

They have a daughter and son in college, and two Jack Russell terriers. In what spare time he finds, Dr. Sanders enjoys walking, swimming, hiking and traveling. On his bucket list is a long overdue return trip to the Caribbean Islands.

He is still inspired by mentors like Dr. Richard Frank, a family friend, now retired. “Dr. Franco was a great humanist,” Dr. Sanders says. He admires Dr. Frank’s approach to, “Identifying the patient who has the disease, not just the disease the patient has.”

According to Dr. Sanders, gravitating to providing telemedicine services was a gradual process for AcuteCare’s four founding partners. “We asked ‘What is telemedicine,’ and at that point the four of us were curious enough and we saw potential in this new technology. So we took the ball and ran with it,” Dr. Sanders says. “We’ve been able to find our way in the business world. It’s a learning adventure and the beauty of it is, we’re really practicing Neurology on a broader scale. It’s the same as our other business (Atlanta Neurology), practicing neurology, just a different way of doing it.”

Technology bridges the distance between remote telemedicine and patients and families in an Emergency Room. “The interaction between patients and families and us with the two-way, secure videoconferencing system that we have, it’s the same as being there,” Dr. Sanders says. “The Neurologic exam for stroke and emergency Neurology can be as safely and reliably done remotely as it is in person,” he adds. “I don’t think we miss anything by not being there.”

For the doctors of AcuteCare Telemedicine, time is of the essence. “When we see these patients it’s in an emergency setting and we have to quickly evaluate if they are eligible for the new stroke treatments,” Dr. Sanders says. “You know the mantra, ‘time is brain.’ For every minute that the brain is deprived of blood supply, one million nerve cells are dying.” Establishing a doctor-patient relationship is critical. “It’s an immediate and intense rapport that you establish and they are looking to us as a specialist, and they are very trusting and we’re very honest with them. It’s very gratifying to be able to help people in that immediate situation.”

Dr. Sanders describes the atmosphere with his partners at AcuteCare as one of collegiality, information-sharing, and cooperation. “We promote a practice-based telemedicine service. We share the responsibility to the patients at the hospitals that we provide the service to. Just like we share our practices in person,” he says. “It provides a better quality of care than a staffing based model where the telemedicine Neurologist one day may be in Texas; the next shift he’s going to be in Florida; and the next shift in New Jersey.”

Dr. Sanders is fortunate to find his motivation in the fact that, “I still enjoy what I do,” he says. “Find a job that you enjoy – never work a day in your life. My partners are critical. Providing a high level of care to our patients, there’s intellectual stimulation to be able to use our specialized knowledge to help people.”



Investing in People

Telemedicine has garnered more attention as of late as a truly game-changing emerging field on the cutting edge of healthcare. Perceptions of the field have become increasingly favorable, but there is still a long road ahead to becoming part of the mainstream lexicon of medicine for patients and providers.

Presently, one of the most significant barriers to entry for new companies in telemedicine is the level of investment required on the part of potential client facilities. Revolutionary technology does not typically come cheap, and as healthcare spending continues to swell (albeit at a slower rate than previously), most facilities are working diligently to combat rising costs rather than add new programs to already bloated budgets.

The good news is that practical new technologies, regardless of how disruptive or expensive at the outset, have a habit of eventually finding their way into adoption. A common adage proclaims that every few years, the power of technology doubles and its price tag is halved. This implies that facilities which have temporarily chosen to forego the extensive advantages that telemedicine programs offer based upon steep startup costs will ultimately find the same solutions to be far more cost effective in the not-too-distant future. However, late adopters of telemedicine services do run the risk of losing their competitive edge. This is especially true in light of the rapid changes ahead in the healthcare landscape; the integration of telemedicine can make a hospital more independent of, or attractive to, consolidation by larger healthcare systems, depending on the goals of the client.

When considering teleneurology as a discipline in particular, hospitals must recognize that an investment in telemedicine is far more than an investment in the newest, best equipment; it is the foundation of a relationship with physicians who are among the most knowledgeable and experiences practitioners in their field. AcuteCare Telemedicine is truly technology- agnostic, meaning that regardless of the price tag of the machines that we leverage to connect with a facility’s patients or staff, a partnership with our physicians means that behind the machinery is the expertise needed to drastically improve the quality of care a patient can receive. We place value in finding quality tools to accomplish our mission, but our accessibility is by no means restricted by them.

Many healthcare leaders are still hesitant to make the investment in something new, but the time has come that the highest level of expert care be available to everyone, everywhere. It is our vision that hospital facilities will share in our agnosticism towards technology and invest in the people who will improve healthcare’s next generation.



Patients Extremely Pleased with Telemedicine

Four months after launching a telemedicine pilot program in conjunction with technology provider Cisco Systems, St. Joseph Health System, a 14 facility hospital network in California, New Mexico, and Texas, has released a patient satisfaction survey that effectively outlines the advantages of telemedicine for patients.

Spokespeople for the partnership have reported that 95% of the patients seen using telemedicine technologies in the program claimed they were “completely satisfied” with their experience. Furthermore, 99% said they would use telehealth services again. Although just one case study, these numbers are a solid case study of the telemedicine patient experience.

So why is consultation via telemedicine technologies so popular with patients? Here are some of the most prominent pluses from the patient’s perspective:

-Telemedicine eliminates travel. Patients are able to connect with physicians from the comfort of their own home, or a facility closer to their home than the physician’s location. This helps both patient and physician avoid unnecessary travel, saving time and effort.

-Telemedicine permits a more flexible schedule. Whether for a simple checkup, continuous patient monitoring, or an emergency situation, scheduling a consultation becomes more flexible when a physician is instantly available. Frustrating long waiting room times are nonexistent in cyberspace.

-Telemedicine simplifies consultation without sacrificing quality. Close evaluation typically shows few or no medical disadvantages to patient consultation via telemedicine technology in most disciplines. Patients feel more relaxed in their own environment.

As practitioners, it is important to view the experience of telemedicine from the patient’s viewpoint. Fortunately, it is becoming clear that patients are on board with this revolutionary technology, facilitating better patient care across geographical borders.