Like all physicians, Aliya Hines, MD, PhD, is busy. Only five years out of residency with two young children and a full work schedule, it's no surprise Doctor Hines leads a jam-packed life -- that's the script for most young physicians working to establish both a career and a family. What sets her apart is the ease with which she juggles it all.
Medicine is an innately demanding profession. And in an environment where physicians everywhere are struggling to stave off burnout as they grow increasingly overburdened by the bureaucratic minutiae that comes along with practicing medicine, it's noteworthy that Doctor Hines has managed to find a work-life balance that suits her perfectly. The key for Doctor Hines: telemedicine and the flexibility it provides.
As a Dermatologist in academic practice with the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Doctor Hines finds herself working in a variety of settings, and she likes it that way.
"I love being in academic practice," said Doctor Hines. "It provides me with enough of the things I like doing as a physician. I really like teaching residents and working with them in clinic. That aspect of my practice definitely helps to keep me motivated and fresh."
And when she's not in the hospital leading rounds and mentoring young physicians, it's possible to find Doctor Hines practicing in a number of other locations -- including out of her home.
Two days a week Doctor Hines practices teledermatology, reading cases and offering diagnoses and recommendations remotely. Working directly from her computer, Doctor Hines spends her tele-medicine days reviewing the medical histories and photographs of patients taken at local Veteran Affairs Clinics in Ohio, Indiana and across rural Michigan. The setup effectively unties Doctor Hines from the office, providing the flexibility and variability her busy life demands.
"Practicing tele-medicine a few days a week gives me additional variety in terms of the work I get to do, which is great," said Dr. Hines. "And because it can be done remotely, it gives me the flexibility to work when and where I want. Days when I complete teledermatology cases are days that I can split up easily, which is really valuable. If I get called to see a consult in the hospital, or have a meeting across campus, I can go and do those things without interrupting patient care."
Doctor Hines typically splits her telemedicine days 50/50 between home and the office. And more often than not, she's able to make an accurate diagnosis using only the materials presented on her computer screen. And if she feels more evaluation needs to first be done, Doctor Hines simply makes the recommendation that the patient schedule an appointment with a local dermatologist in their VA system, allowing for additional assessment and biopsies if necessary.
The setup works great for Doctor Hines, but she's not the only one benefiting. Telemedicine adds value and saves time for everyone - including patients.
"Often times I'll see pictures that very clearly indicate the patient has a benign legion that doesn't need any further attention, and it's so great for patients to be able to get that diagnosis without first driving several hours to their local VA clinic and then spending even more time waiting around for their appointment," said Doctor Hines. And then that frees up clinic hours and increases access for the patients who really do need face-to-face attention. It's an amazing way to triage patients."
And while dermatology does lend itself particularly well to the practice of telemedicine, Doctor Hines believes physicians across specialties will soon discover, and ultimately embrace, the ability to administer quality care remotely.
"I'm not sure if people realize how much telemedicine is already in use or fully appreciate the potential it has to positively disrupt the way we deliver care. Telemedicine is particularly well-suited to visual specialties like Dermatology, but I think we're going to see it become more widely applicable in other areas, and I hope to see other physicians embrace it," said Doctor Hines. "It's added so much flexibility to how I practice, which has been wonderful. I'd like to see all my colleagues benefit in the same way."