Dr. David Stukus is an associate professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology. Prior to becoming the director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center, Dr. Stukus started the Complex Asthma Clinic at Nationwide Children's Hospital in 2011, which treats children with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma. Dr. Stukus is an internationally recognized keynote speaker and holds multiple leadership positions in the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. In 2018, Dr. Stukus was invited to become the first Social Media Medical Editor for the AAAAI, where he produces and hosts their podcast "Conversations From the World of Allergy". He has been named a Top Doctor in Pediatric Allergy every year since 2015.
Dr. Dave (as his patients call him) is very active on social media and uses his popular Twitter and Instagram accounts @AllergyKidsDoc to dispel myths and combat misinformation. Most recently, Dr. Stukus gave his patients a little surprise when he dressed up as Captain America during his telehealth visits that caught nationwide attention.
This past week we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Stukus to learn about his experience as an innovator in telehealth.
Whitecoatremote.com: What is your primary location of practice?
Dr. Stukus: I practice in the division of Allergy and Immunology, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus Ohio.
WCR: How many years have you been in practice?
Dr. Stukus: I’ve been in practice for 12 years
WCR: What is your Primary area of specialty?
Dr. Stukus: Pediatric Allergy and Immunology
WCR: Approximately how much of your practice is now telemedicine and how long have you been doing Telehealth for?
Dr. Stukus: All of our new patient and follow up visits are through telemedicine but we continue to have patients come to the office for allergy shots and biologic injections for asthma. We started Telehealth 7 weeks ago and had no prior experience.
WCR: What inspired you to dress up as a superhero for your patients?
Dr. Stukus: I dress up in a costume for Halloween every year and wear it to the hospital - it's fun and the kids all love it. I've gone as Captain America, Thor, and StarLord from Guardians of the Galaxy, so I have some superhero garb already at home. The day I dressed up, I actually had that idea early in the morning and I floated it by my wife, who thought it was a bit over the top...then I learned that it was National Superhero Day. After that, it was a no-brainer. It was a fun way to change things up a bit.
WCR: What was the reaction from your patients?
Dr. Stukus: It turns out that most of my patients that day were infants and they could care less! They were more infatuated with the computer screen. Parents shared a chuckle with me.
WCR: What kind of patient population do you serve with telehealth?
Dr. Stukus: At baseline, about 70% of our patients receive Medicaid. We have been able to continue to serve patients who receive Medicaid and commercial insurance, from rural or urban areas, and across all ages. Some families prefer telephone encounters instead of video, or may have limited access, but we can still provide care.
WCR: In your opinion, what is the major barrier from a patient’s perspective to participate in telehealth?
Dr. Stukus: Access to a good wifi or cellular connection and a device with a camera is likely the biggest hurdle, but even then, it's not a common challenge. Most people have these capabilities in 2020.
WCR: What kind of feedback (either negative or positive) have you received from patients while using telehealth?
Dr. Stukus: Almost universal acceptance and appreciation for being seen. Many ask if we can continue to use telehealth for future visits.
WCR: In your opinion, what is the most beneficial thing patients get from telehealth?
Dr. Stukus: They receive high level medical care, reassurance, guidance, and support from the comfort of their home. They don't have to miss work or school, spend time traveling, or pay for parking.
WCR: What strategies have you used to improve the delivery of health care to patients with the use of telemedicine during the pandemic?
Dr. Stukus: I've always had conversations with patients in the exam room; I'm not one to type or use the computer during the visit, so that has really helped me transition to telehealth. I have a conversation, use directed questions to gain insight into their concerns, and provide concise information and explanations. I also utilize shared decision making to try and discuss treatment options and understand patient values. Lastly, I reinforce key messages, tell patients that a written copy of the after visit summary will be mailed to them and try to remove the burden that they need to remember every exact thing we discuss.
WCR: Can your patients expect Captain (Dr.) America to make a reappearance? Or perhaps an Avengers reunion?
Dr. Stukus: Absolutely - I can't think of any reason not to!
The landscape of telemedicine continues to rapidly evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every week, we hope to spotlight physicians from around the country to highlight and discuss their ongoing experiences with telehealth.
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