Telepsychiatry Companies

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Elaina Najera, one of our incredible LCSWs.   

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I was looking at all the available online positions at different job hosting sites. I located Iris and thought, “Telehealth, I could do that. I’ve done that already.”

Then, when I did the initial meeting with Iris, and they started telling me about the organization, I was immediately sold on the ability to work from home and to work for some of the most disenfranchised folks. That’s a huge issue for me. Serving communities that aren’t normally served appealed to me.

Another thing that was huge was the competitive pay. That was another factor in considering this job. When I thought through the first couple of interviews, I realized this job was what I wanted. 

Q. How does teletherapy compare to in-person care?

A. I have been a social worker for at least 15 years and did in-person care. Then, with the advent of COVID-19 and a public health emergency, the state allowed for telehealth and expanded the ability. Initially, at the start of the pandemic, I was in case management work, not direct client service therapy.

Then, I switched mid-pandemic to doing therapy full-time, and it was all by telephone. I couldn’t even use Zoom at that location. It was very different. Comparing the two, no matter where I am, who I am, and where I’m at, I’m always the same person. I’m authentic, and I will be the same caring provider that I am, whether in person or using telehealth.

Telehealth has expanded my ability to provide care to people I usually wouldn’t have been able to reach as an in-person provider.

I’m a huge advocate for telehealth because I feel like the relationships can be just as deep and meaningful. In a therapeutic setting, the relationship is huge. It’s a huge part of the change cycle and folks’ ability to grow and build health in their life.

Even through telehealth, I can build those same strong relationships with my clients that I had while I was an in-person provider as well.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. In person, you can see more of their environment. Sometimes, you can latch on to different things. Fostering a virtual connection means being authentic and genuine with what you are and who you are and acknowledging that sometimes there will be technology issues. Sometimes, there will be connectivity issues, and rolling with that when that happens.

By doing telehealth, I can see into people’s homes, which you’re not typically able to see, and see how people function in their homes in a traditional setting as a therapist. I can see pictures in the background and say, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Or they might say, “My room is super messy right now – ‘this’ is what’s going on.”

That fosters a relationship to say, “Okay, so what’s going on emotionally, mentally, that your room is in this state?” Virtually, it’s about being authentic. That’s one thing I will always come back to.

I am open to questions because sometimes your patients do not see your office. For example, they see my blurred virtual background. They’re not seeing all the things that tell them about me that they might see in an in-person setting. That’s why I’ll wear fun earrings, and then they’ll ask about it, and we joke about things and share. For me, engagement is huge for fostering that connection.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. Since joining Iris, my work-life balance has been so much better. Getting rid of a commute has transformed my life and being home when I’m done with work. Managing a work-life balance for me is important because I am also a caregiver to my sister, who has some health issues.

So, being available to take her where she needs to go and do those things after work is important to me. One of the ways I manage my work-life balance is when my computer is off, I’m not working. I don’t have Zoom on my phone; I don’t check my emails when I’m off work. I’m grateful to be in a setting without being on call or having things to worry about.

That was a huge selling point for me with Iris – it’s more like traditional therapy. You are a therapy provider because you’re not on call or responding to crises and emergencies. I have a history of working in residential treatment. When you’re working in residential, it’s always a crisis.

As I’ve grown with Iris in the last six or seven months, I’ve had a new sense of calm and peace about my work life. That’s wonderful for me. I also make sure to schedule time off, be proactive about that time off, and make that a priority for myself and my family. I also make sure I take my breaks.

Someone asked me, “How do you do it when you have four or five sessions back-to-back?” I say, “I do the 50-minute therapeutic hour, and then I have 10 minutes to write a note or pet one of my cats, make a cup of tea, take a break, walk around in my living room, and listen to a song.”

One of my life passions is K-Pop, which has been for about 20 years. To manage and enjoy my life, I’ll listen to a K-pop song and find peace between sessions so I can show up and be the best person for my clients.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to serve folks who usually wouldn’t be able to access care. I have a caseload of at least five or six folks who are unhoused right now and are struggling to meet their basic needs. The rewarding part is meeting them where they’re at – if they are in a parking lot, parked in their car because that’s where they’re sleeping for the night. I can meet them there and provide therapy to them that way.

It’s rewarding to see a slight change. The way I look at it is there’s a spectrum of suffering, and if we can move that needle a little bit, we’re not going make huge changes overnight, especially when folks’ basic needs aren’t being met. Reducing that suffering for that day, week, or month is rewarding.

The rewarding part is there’s a social justice issue mixed in all of it. Some people would not be able to access care because of either being unhoused, being disabled, having mobility issues, or having transportation issues; being able to serve those populations and give back to a community is so rewarding.

Q. What does providing teletherapy to the unhoused community look like in practice?

A. Most folks in California, where I practice, have a government phone. The government phone allows them access for free for maybe a dollar a month. It’s very affordable. So, usually, they also have data, and we can do a Zoom call. If we can’t do a Zoom call, we do it by telephone.

I still provide the same care, compassion, and connection. I have some of the greatest relationships with folks who we only meet by phone, but they trust me, talk to me, and it’s a wonderful experience.

If they don’t have a private place to meet, say they’re in shared housing right now in the shelter, they go to the local behavioral health office in Nevada County where I work, and we set them up in a room with a Zoom or Team’s link. I have one patient right now who does it that way, so they’re afforded privacy in an office space.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. I love everything, but I particularly love the amount of support that I have. I have my Clinical Operations Manager, Katelyn Deckert, shout out to her. She was recently on maternity leave, so bless her for having her baby. Melissa Kennedy was able to cover during that time. I never felt like I didn’t have support. I always had support.

The other thing is that Iris has fostered such a good relationship with my clinic that my clinic trusts me. They trust Iris, and I feel like a valued professional. I have beautiful equipment that works wonderfully for the job. I have wonderful pay and benefits that are huge to me.

Medical benefits are another issue in our country for people who need medical coverage. To have it as part of my job is wonderful, too. I love telling folks, I work from home, and I get to provide therapy to people.” I love sharing that. I love telling people I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and do clinical social work every day from my own home.

That’s huge for me. That’s what I love about Iris. I got one of my close friends and confidants a position with Iris. She’s been on for three or four months now, and I’m working on getting as many other of my LCSW friends to come over.

Q. Why do you think teletherapy is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. With the advent of the public health emergency of COVID, which we are still experiencing, COVID is still very existent. We saw that it is possible for folks to access care from home and access care in other ways than traditionally going into an office. You’re talking about travel time to an office, being in the office, waiting for the appointment, making the next appointment, leaving the office, and traveling back home.

For some folks, it’s a disability justice issue as well. Another area that I’m very passionate about is disability advocacy. We’re finding that more and more folks have been disabled by virtue of having COVID-19 infections. There’s a lot of long COVID happening, but disabled people have always existed, and they’re suddenly realizing that things do not have to be in person to have the same quality, care, and impact.

For me, it’s the future because it’s the most inclusive. It’s the option that will allow us to serve the most people. Some people have never been able to see a psychiatrist, but now they can because they can see one through telehealth from an Iris provider. To me, that’s amazing. That is the future.

Folks like me who are highly skilled in this field for a reason can reach more people via telehealth. It reduces barriers to getting treatment. That’s the future.

Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

A. My advice for someone new to telehealth is to be yourself. Practice with your equipment on someone else who’s not a client so you can get familiar with your equipment. Thankfully, Iris does that with you. You get to practice with IT when they set you up, and then you get to practice with your COM.

And remember, don’t ever think that telehealth is “less than.” There’s a stigma or a judgment that happens in the psychiatry and therapy community that somehow telehealth is less than. If you feel that as a provider, your clients and patients will feel that, too. Starting in telehealth, you need to honor telehealth for the sacred connection that it is and just as equal and valuable as an in-person session.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Elaina Najera. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Jean Oelschlager.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I retired from my position in Wisconsin with community mental health in 2020 amid the pandemic. We moved to Arizona, and I planned to volunteer out here. During the pandemic, no one was accepting volunteers, particularly older volunteers. I thought I couldn’t just sit at home all the time. I needed to do something productive and useful. I thought about doing locums work again because I had done that work in the past, and I reached out to a couple of the companies I worked with, and they didn’t have anything that worked for me.

I wasn’t looking for a full-time job. I was looking for something where I could work two or three days a week because I wanted to retire or semi-retire. That didn’t pan out. I thought maybe I should check into telehealth.

I found Iris listed and read more about it. The more I learned about Iris, the more it seemed like it was a good fit for me because they were willing to be flexible with part-time hours, with the possibility that I might want to return to Wisconsin in the summers.

I like the mission to provide services to underserved areas. I like that Iris was started by a psychiatrist who saw this need and stepped up by starting the company. All those things were appealing, and the people I talked to were lovely, helpful people. It seemed like a really good fit. The process started at the beginning of 2021, and by September 2021, I started with the clinic in Missouri.

Q. How does telehealth compare to in-person care?

A. I’ve learned how to communicate better in the virtual world with patients. You have to be more tuned into eye contact and be more verbal about what you’re doing when you’re looking away so they know what you’re doing if you work with two screens.

I have one screen for the Zoom call and the other for the medical record. I’ll tell them if I’m doing something else, like ordering medications. They can see that when you’re in an office setting, but they can’t when you’re virtual. You have to be more mindful to let patients know when you’re not looking at them what’s happening. You give them time for them to answer.

The other thing that has worked well with my setup with Iris and the clinic in Missouri is that patients come into the clinic.

I don’t do virtual visits in their homes. They come in and get their vitals. We do PHQ-9s and AIMs, and then the nurse scans it so that I can see everything. I have a designated nurse that I’ve worked with throughout my time at the clinic. She knows my routine. She’s that physical presence for me, an extension of me. And that has worked really well.

Because sometimes she can see things that I can’t necessarily see and can alert me to that. I know not every situation with telehealth works that way, but I’m really happy that’s how it worked out. I value that team approach and that she’s there in person to connect with patients and see things that I might not catch virtually.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. Eye contact is probably the biggest thing. Also, using the staff that’s physically present in the clinic to reach out to patients. For example, we had a patient who had postpartum depression, and I was concerned about her. We connected her with one of our therapists, who contacted her between my visits to see how she was doing.

The other thing that’s really nice about my setup is that it’s a primary care clinic. So most of the providers in the clinic are primary care, and then they have a behavioral health and substance use department, too. It’s happened more than once that a patient comes in to see me, and they are medically ill. They either have an upper respiratory infection or a UTI, or something needs to be addressed.

My nurse will try to get them in to see one of the primary care providers around our appointment. That way, the patient (particularly if it’s a more acute situation where we’re really concerned about them) can be seen and get their issue addressed either right before I see them or right after. That holistic approach creates a good relationship with patients that they appreciate. I appreciate it, too, because I know they’re getting their needs met in other areas.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. The biggest thing is that at my stage now, I can say I’m only going to work two days a week. That was really an important part of coming back to work. I had been doing this for 30+ years and wanted to do other things, not just work full-time. That was one of the things with doing telehealth and joining Iris, was Iris being flexible enough to say, “Yes, we can find something where you can just work two days a week.”

I wasn’t interested in doing call anymore. I did that for years – been there, done that. I put my time in doing call. I wanted something where I could do outpatient work a few days a week without worrying about the call.

Not to say that I never would get a call. There have been instances where a question came up on a patient, and the clinic would call me on my non-work days. But that’s extremely rare. It may only have happened a couple of times in the two years I’ve been working.

Being able to do just the two days a week has worked really well because it’s allowed me to do other things. One of the things we enjoy doing out here is hiking. We’ve got a hiking group that we do regularly—staying active. The climate here is conducive to that, except in the middle of July.

Even then, you have to get up really early. I still do that and walk at least two miles daily every morning. I just get up really early when it’s hot. I think what we tell our patients is to stay healthy. Work is important, and I think that it helps me to stay mentally active, feel productive, and like I’m still contributing.

I’m volunteering at a couple of places, which has been great meeting the people in the community, making new friends, and staying active socially. All those things are important.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. I would say seeing patients get better or having that “aha moment” where they connect how they can change their thinking or behavior that will make life better for them.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. The flexibility. The staff I’ve worked with have been wonderful and helpful—for example, the IT folks. I’ve had a couple of times where stuff didn’t work, and I was sending texts because of the time difference between Missouri and Arizona. I was texting them early in the morning, “This isn’t working, and I have patients starting at this time. I need help right away.” Then, within minutes I was getting help.

That’s been consistent because it’s happened several times. I’m not a tech guru by any means, and that’s probably my greatest anxiety is wondering, “What’s going to happen with the computer? Or, is there going to be some upgrade or downgrade?” The IT staff have been wonderful. The supervisory folks, like Melissa Kennedy are wonderful.

I had an accident where I was hit by a car while I was out walking last year, and I broke my back, leg, and pelvis. I was in a wheelchair for six weeks. Iris was very understanding, and the clinic understood that I had to get better. After three weeks of not working, I was so bored because I was wheelchair-bound.

The clinic and Iris helped me figure out a schedule where I would work just a few hours a day. I’d work a couple of hours, then I’d rest a couple of hours, and then I started seeing patients again after three weeks, even though I was still in the wheelchair. That’s another example of the flexibility that I value both with the clinic and with Iris. That was wonderful.

I’ve had a miraculous recovery, and that’s amazing. I feel very blessed, but that was being able to just work a little bit for probably a month to six weeks until I was more ambulatory. That was good for my mental health, too. Because I was homebound, unless my husband would load me up with a wheelchair to take me somewhere, which was a big to do, that flexibility was very important and helpful.

Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

A. I would say find the right company that will support you. It’s important to have a team behind you to help with credentialing and vetting potential clinics that you might be working for. The IT component – Iris has been great about providing the equipment and helping with getting licensing and malpractice coverage. I think that’s probably my biggest thing is just finding the right fit with a company that can give you that support and help getting started.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Jean Oelschlager. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Valerie King-Ernst.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I had been getting inundated with emails from telehealth companies. Iris was one of them. I spoke with a few companies, but what led me to choose Iris is that when I met with or spoke with one of the individuals on the team, they were personable, and they made me feel like as a provider – if I worked with Iris – I would be looked after, and have a support team in place.

When I spoke with other telehealth companies, they sold it by saying, “You’ll have a lot of autonomy.” While I wanted that autonomy, I also wanted a team behind me. I didn’t feel like I would get that with other places.

Q. How does telehealth compare to in-person care?

A. The biggest difference is not having to travel. That’s the best thing. There isn’t anything that can beat that. Not having to travel allows me time to get situated to go over a chart, maybe run down all the patients and see like, “Okay, I might use this with this person, I might use that with that person.”

Not to say that I don’t do that when I’m in the outpatient setting or having to travel to a place, but I feel like when you’re in traffic, things can get a little stressful because you’re traveling in rush hour traffic and sometimes that can get a little tense for people. And when you don’t have to do that, that’s one less stressor, one less thing to worry about.

Working from home allows you to focus on getting ready for the day and getting prepared for the day when you can do it from home.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. I have to be honest with you, I do nothing different than what I do inpatient or in person except, of course, I do ask them if they’ve done telehealth before. I also make sure to remind them that this is confidential, and I explain all of that to them.

In terms of developing a rapport, if it’s the first visit, I’ll introduce myself, and then I make sure I maintain eye contact. I greet them with a smile when they first sit down, and sometimes, I’ll find one thing they’ve said, and I’ll try to let them know that. I may share something that’s not too personal about myself but something they might be able to relate to so they know I understand what they’re saying.

And then I do a lot of empathic listening where I repeat back to them what they’ve said or paraphrase what they’ve said so they know that I’m here, I’m listening. I don’t just do that with telehealth. I do that all the time. I paraphrase what they said and ask, “Did I get that right?”

At the end of an initial visit, I always thank them for sharing their story. And that, for me, is a way of building rapport. So they know, “I appreciate that you came and you talked to this stranger for the first time, and you are sharing all this information.”

Then, on subsequent visits, I always make sure to remember key things they said and say, “Oh, okay, that’s right. Because you said, your daughter had a soccer game after that. How did that go?” So they know they’re not just a symptom to me. They are somebody that I care about, and I want to get to know them.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. I make sure that I’m done by a certain time. I generally get all my work done before I have to sign off. The reason why I’m doing telehealth is to allow myself to have more time with my family.

I make time to stop work at a certain time. I try to stop at least no later than a couple of hours after my last patient.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. Particularly in this position, I would say that I get to work with underserved communities. I’ve worked in areas where I have worked with people that had communities that had a lot of the resources, like very well-to-do communities.

You can see the difference. They have the resources and places where they can be referred to for additional support in the community. However, working in an underserved community is more gratifying for me because a lot of times, when I’m talking to my patients, I realize they don’t know about a lot of the resources available.

I had a patient last month who had food insecurity. She was saying that she can’t spend much on medications. They don’t have money to eat or anything. They don’t have food in the house.

I went online and asked her, “Do you know if there’s a food bank in your area?” And she didn’t. I did obviously talk about churches, but then I Googled a food bank for her. Then, I put that information in the after-visit summary.

I had a patient whose kid had special needs. They were talking about everything they have to deal with in terms of that. So, I went online and looked up a special needs organization in their community, and then I put that in the after-visit summary. That’s what I like about working with underserved communities.

When I work with communities with a lot more, they already have those services. Like, “Oh yeah, my kid is in this, my kid is in that.” But when you’re working with the underserved communities, they don’t really have all those resources, and they don’t know where to find them.

It is gratifying to be able to do the extra research for them.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. Having clinical managers. I can focus more on patient care. There’s always these political machinations that go on behind the scenes, and having a clinical manager I can say, “This is a concern.” It allows me to focus more on patient care. Then they can take the concern to the clinic, and I don’t have to worry about the other in-between stuff. I can go ahead and focus on patient care. So that’s a plus for sure.

And also building relationships with them is good too because they’re good people. So that is one of the good things about it.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. Thirty years ago, there were more community mental health centers. We have fewer now. A lot of them have shut down due to lack of funding. There’s a shortage of psychiatrists and mental health providers. Telepsychiatry is important because now we get to reach those communities that do not have those services. Access is very important.

Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

A. I would tell them to take advantage of all that telehealth has to offer because it allows you more time to spend with family because you don’t have to worry about commuting. And it allows you to focus more on patient care. Take that in and appreciate that you have that advantage over those people that are not doing telehealth.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Valerie King-Ernst. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Carissa Cabán Alemán.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I came across Iris because of a referral from a great friend. Her name is Dr. Marialba Romero. We attended the same medical school in Puerto Rico. I was considering telehealth in the process of readaptation instead of just finding a regular job here that required me to see patients in person, and she recommended Iris. It was the main reason why I decided to apply because she had a really good experience here.

Q. How does telehealth compare to in-person care?

A. Frankly, when I was in residency, I heard that some colleagues were practicing telepsychiatry, which was pretty new back then. I was concerned because I thought the interaction would be so different, and in some ways, it is.

But I’ve realized across the years, especially after the pandemic began, we had to transition to telehealth that it works well, and you can establish a good interaction with patients that doesn’t feel cold and detached like I thought it would when I was a resident (I was very interested in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis back then). I’ve had really strong professional relationships developed with patients over telehealth.

I’ve changed my mind a lot about it. It’s been a great experience, especially because of the convenience for the patients and us. When patients can’t commute and when they have situations, it’s much easier for them to accommodate their schedule to see us. It provides better quality of care for those who have the privilege of having internet and good access to technology because of that saving of time.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. You have to focus more on listening and show that you’re making a bigger effort with non-verbal facial cues. Paying attention to the eye contact and establishing that look, instead of just writing notes or doing something else, at least in the beginning, to really demonstrate that you’re listening a little bit deeper than in person because you don’t have the full presence of the person there. That’s one of the main techniques.

Then, techniques we use for basic interviewing skills that should always be utilized, but in telehealth, are very important—for example, rephrasing, summarizing for the patient, making sure that we understand them well by repeating what they said and developing a person-centered care relationship.

I’m lucky to be trained in community psychiatry, so we focus on recovery-oriented and patient-centered care. Those skills come in handy, sometimes even more with telehealth.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. Since working in telehealth, it’s much easier now because I had a demanding academic full-time job before I made this transition. I work with Iris part-time right now. So, I have a lot more time to develop my interests in other areas of mental health that I didn’t have the chance to explore when I was a full-time professor working at the university and seeing patients.

Working with Iris a couple of times a week gives me a flexible schedule to dive into other areas and have more time to practice mindfulness, which is very important for me, and connect with nature, which is another big priority. It wasn’t easy to find the time to be out in nature when I worked 40 hours a week or more.

It’s not only about the part-time but also the fact that I don’t have to commute. I live in a very rural place in the mountains, so I can walk on my break after lunch, or if I have a no-show or finish on time with a patient, I can take a break and go for a walk and come back. That wouldn’t have happened in my prior job. I value that a lot. It makes a big difference.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. Seeing the patients get better. That’s always the most rewarding part. When they tell you certain things about how their quality of life is improving, when you make that click and that connection, when empathy is felt by them in your work, and then they tell you how they’re doing or they say thank you.

One of the things that I love about this job, at least with the place where I work, is that the agency Iris connected me with is very interested in providing good quality care. They allow me enough time to provide psychotherapy and not just medication management if necessary.

I also have a lot of Spanish speaking patients that have language capacity, and those patients don’t have access to therapy where they live. I provide that in addition to medication management if necessary. I value that a lot.

It’s rewarding seeing them get better, for example, this patient was having some problems with her teenage kids, and now she’s interacting with them a lot better and feeling much more capable of enjoying her time with her family. And so that kind of thing gives me the most satisfaction.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. The capacity I have to help different populations in different places. The fact that I don’t have to commute and I can live close to my family and be here. That I have an opportunity for a solid job where I have a good quality of care and a good situation in terms of the time that I have for patients without having to commute and dress up and drive and all of that. It saves me time.

I’m also a psychiatrist working on activism and educational projects about the impact of climate change on mental health. Not commuting decreases my carbon footprint and helps me not negatively impact nature. I appreciate that a lot.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. It’s the way that society is functioning right now. It’s the present, and it’s not even the future anymore. It’s part of a network of resources we need to utilize to increase access to care.

It’s not perfect, and I always sincerely get concerned about the lack of access many patients still have when they don’t have a computer or a cell phone. For example, people experiencing homelessness.

Of course, we still have to provide good quality care in person, and not all patients enjoy seeing us through the camera or are capable of it. But, all of the other patients that are cognitively capable and want to see us this way it’s a huge advantage that increases access to care and quality of care.

There’s no going back. This platform will be more prevalent as we go into the future.

Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

A. Make sure that you use it as a way to establish more work-life balance, not less. Working with Iris gives you more opportunity to find ways to have a more balanced work-life schedule. So, make sure you’re doing it for that.

Then, of course, try to take your breaks. I think about physical health as well. We need to stretch and stand up. It’s also important to connect with colleagues through the grand rounds and all the opportunities that Iris gives us to connect with others doing the same work so we don’t isolate ourselves.

If we only do the work and sit in a room the whole day, it can be a little bit isolating if we don’t use the company’s resources and other resources like connecting locally with professional associations and, of course, with our friends and family.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Carissa Cabán Alemán. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Iype.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. Dr. Milam was my attending physician when I did my residency at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia. I knew he was starting up something called Iris. Then, later on, after I graduated from residency, I was looking into telehealth options, and I saw Iris. It never linked until later after residency that, “Oh my goodness, this is what Dr. Milam was talking about!” It was natural to reach out to him and ask whether I would be a good fit.

Personal connections are how I usually learn about jobs. I trusted Dr. Milam to tell me about Iris; it sounded like a good fit.

Q. How does telepsychiatry compare to in-person care?

A. My first job was crisis walk-in and telehealth, too. I did a combo where I still had to go to the facility and do telehealth. Comparatively speaking, I live in the Maryland area, and it took me an hour to get to work. In terms of work-life balance, it’s amazing that I get to be present at work when I need to be at work and at home when I need to be at home. And there’s no in-between fluff of transportation or anything. That’s my biggest thing is the fluff isn’t there. When I’m with my patients, I’m with my patients. Then, when I’m with my family, I’m with my family.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. I tell them what to expect. When I first start an interview, I ask them, “Hey, are you familiar with this kind of technology?” Some are, some are not. Then I equate it to something they’re familiar with, like FaceTime. I’ll say, “It’s similar to FaceTime, but this is more of a professional setting where you get to meet with your doctor.” Then I tell them the pros and cons. I lay it out there because most of the time, they’re very grateful they can see a specialist because of where I provide care. I provide care in Michigan, where specialists are few and far between.

A lot of patients do well with that. I have some people who will wait for me. I try not to be late, but they say, “It’s worth waiting for Dr. Iype.” That connection is there. Usually, because you listen and you’re attentive to details, people forget that there is a screen or a certain amount of miles, and they probably have to get on a plane to be in the same state as their physician.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. I always say it’s a work in progress. I have two small kids. One is three, and the other just turned one. Home life is hectic in terms of their needs, but telehealth provides that work-life balance for me, and I don’t spend an hour commuting. I am as present as I can be with my kids when I’m there and with my patients as much as I can be when I’m there. The work-life balance is there because I’ve removed that commute time, which is important to me at this point in my career. I try to get into hobbies or be as connected to hobbies as much as possible, like reading and doing the things I enjoy on the side. My work allows for that flexibility.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. Change is very slow. For psychiatry, you don’t necessarily get that gratification of stitching up a wound. That immediate gratification isn’t there. It’s change over time. That might happen over years, months, and decades – to have patients succeed. It can be just from the fact that they’re able to go back to work or they’re able to go and do something that they were not able to do, interact more with friends or family. I get to be part of that journey. That change might not be so obvious the first time I met them or maybe even a year later. But the change I see is very gratifying in the length of time it took for that patient to get there.

It’s amazing. I love looking back at cases and seeing how far they’ve come, and I’ll mention it, and you get to share in that joy. An ER doc stitches up a wound; that’s great, it’s gratifying. It’s very physical, but my job entails more of a slower process, and I find that very gratifying because that’s almost longer lasting. It’s neat to see how far patients have come, and I get that continuity of seeing that.

It’s amazing to see the dynamics of growth, and growth happens slowly. Some patients become sober or quit smoking or do something where they’ll come back and tell you, “It’s that one conversation we had.” We might not think much of it, but that really stuck with them for some reason. They’ll say, “Dr. Iype, you mentioned I should stop smoking, and I actually did.” I say that to 50 patients, and probably two listen – that’s awesome. You might not have that conversation in the emergency room or someplace as fast-paced. I enjoy that it’s a little bit slower, maybe not as quick as other specialties, and objectively seeing things. But overall, I think there are incremental small, minute changes that are amazing and very impactful.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. They’re extremely efficient. Working for community mental health, if there’s an EMR-related question, I have to ask the organization’s IT team, and the efficiency and responsiveness may not be there. Iris is not the same — Iris is extremely responsive and very efficient. They are looking at, “Hey, how can I improve your workflow to make your life easier?” That is their motto, and they try to strive to live by it. Danielle Swanson, my Clinical Operation Manager (COM), checks in and asks, “Is your equipment up to date? Is there an extra camera that I can give you?” They’re looking for, “Is the doc doing what she loves? Which is seeing patients. Or is her time being spent trying to fix the camera?”

They work on making sure that I’m spending my time doing what I love. That is why I love Iris. I can text Danielle, call, and set up a meeting, and she checks in with me. The COMs are amazing. They’re lifelines and very helpful. IT is amazing. I know both sides because I work in the community mental health part, where they might struggle with efficiency and, sometimes, responsiveness. In contrast, Iris is quite the opposite, which is refreshing.

They’re like magicians or wizards. I’m like, “Danielle, I don’t know who to talk to,” and they make it happen. I’m like, “wizardry,” that’s what it is. Many places do not have COMs or people interested in making sure that you are doing what you want to do, which is seeing patients and not necessarily worrying about technical issues or tickets. That’s amazing. I’m working with wizards and magicians, and superheroes. That’s what I enjoy about working with Iris as opposed to somewhere else.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. Access to care. I work in Clair County, Michigan, and psychiatrists are not accessible. Small communities of people access mental health care through telehealth, and that’s it. These places are full of need, yet they don’t have a physician servicing that need other than through telehealth. It is vital in providing care to people that need it. It gives the physician flexibility to not necessarily live in that state but be able to provide much-needed care. There’s gratitude on the patient’s end for that access to care. And then there’s the gratitude of the physician having the flexibility to live where they want. It’s a win-win, and access to care is the most important piece.

Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

A. It’s most likely that you’ll never go back. If there’s a lot of fluff and other things taking you away from work, adding time to get to work, or barriers to being present at home, then telehealth is an option for you. It removed about two hours of my day going back and forth to work. If you’re looking for something that removes ‘the extra,’ I call it, then it’s something you should consider. It provides that work-life balance that a lot of people are seeking. When I turn on my computer, I immediately access my patients. When I turn off my computer, I have immediate access to my friends and my family.

What I love and wish and hope for someone who starts telehealth is that they can do what they love both in their personal lives and their career. I don’t think there’s any going back. There’s that flexibility. Iris is pretty awesome about being flexible with the hours and all of that. It’s awesome if you’re looking for something on the side or something else. It’s great.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Iype. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Kavita Vasu.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I found Iris basically by doing an internet search. For a while, I was fascinated with telepsychiatry and wanted to try it, but at that time, I had a medical situation and could not physically go to work. I knew telehealth would be a good option for me. This was before the pandemic even started. I didn’t even look for other companies. I reached out, and it was a seamless process. I’ve been working with Iris ever since.

Q. How does telepsychiatry compare to in-person work?

A. In-person work, you get some extra information because you can see the patient walk into the office. But with telepsych, a nurse can always give me this additional information that I cannot get. That’s really helpful. There are times when there are aggressive patients, and you can see their mood escalates. There are many times when I felt, “Thank God that I’m on the other side where I’m safe,” and I don’t have to worry about being physically attacked. There are other differences where if it’s a child, I can engage with them in play better in person.

Overall, with telepsych, the no-show rates are significantly lower because people can access them from wherever they are at home or work. Sometimes, instead of taking the whole day off for a medical visit, people can take their appointment from work and go to another quiet place. Or even college students can take calls from their university. I feel like telepsych, in that respect, gives more flexibility to a patient.

For underserved communities, they may have waited months for a specialty provider or had to travel somewhere else. Telepsychiatry bridges that gap, where they can see a specialist sooner and don’t have to travel as much. It’s nice that people in those communities can be served through telepsychiatry.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. It requires a different approach for children and adults. It’s easier with adults because now people use technology so much for communication, whether in meetings or calling their families in different countries. There has been less of a challenge with adults and teenagers. Teenagers love being in the virtual world, and many of them are more comfortable with virtual care. When I saw patients in the office, teenagers took a lot of time to warm up and share information. But because this is a platform they use so often socially, it’s the norm for them, and they find they open up so much faster.

To them, it feels like they’re talking to a friend. Their ability to share is quick. That has helped foster connection. If I notice a reservation about it or they’re nervous, I get them to talk about it. I always ask, “How do you feel about using telepsychiatry?” They will tell me what reservations they have. I will acknowledge and validate that and say, “Yes, I understand that, but I’ll do my best to help make this smooth for you.” And the guard drops just from that.

I make sure I’m making good eye contact and less time just looking at the computer to fill out stuff, so they feel that I’m engaging with them. And then, once the connection has been established, it is easier to move forward.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. It’s easier to manage work-life balance when you’re doing telepsychiatry. People often feel, “I’m doing this from home so I can make my notes later.” And I want to make sure that I don’t practice that habit because you remember so much better when you do it right away.

Iris Telehealth is amazing with providing us with admin time, which many places don’t specifically do for note taking, so why not utilize that? Preferably, I do my notes for the morning patients before I start with the afternoon appointments. That way, I can start with a fresh mind; I remember everything. Then, since I’ve done my notes during the work hours, that leaves me with time in the evening to spend with my family, friends, and doing hobbies I pursue.

I also make sure in between visits, I get up for a little bit, even if it’s getting up and walking around for two minutes. I like meditating, doing yoga, and spending time in nature. I make sure there’s time for that, so I can return to work feeling enthusiastic and refreshed every day.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. Listening to people and realizing that they’re feeling so much better, from knowing someone is listening to them, trying to understand them, and validating how they’re feeling. I can see that relief in them, like, “Somebody understands me, somebody gets me.” There’s so much satisfaction from just knowing that somebody’s feeling relief from that itself.

Then, of course, when I see their symptoms improving and see them being able to function better in their lives, where their symptoms or their illness is not holding them back anymore. They can fully engage in life with their work and relationships in every way. It’s wonderful to see people get back to functioning at the most optimal level, especially with children, because I know they have their whole life ahead of them. A change that I can make that can impact the rest of their lives can be really rewarding.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. I love many things about working with Iris, and I’m saying this because I’ve spoken to friends who work at other telehealth companies. When Iris says they are focused on employee satisfaction and well-being, they mean it. I have felt so supported, especially during the pandemic. It was a challenging time. Each of us is assigned a Clinical Operations Manager, so they’re regularly reaching out to connect, see how things are going, and ask how they can support me.

But in the pandemic, they took it to another level where they were reaching out frequently to make sure I wasn’t feeling burnt out and asking how they could support me so that I could function the best at work, whether it was the pandemic or going through my medical stuff — I got so much support.

There was so much understanding and flexibility. I feel like I’m part of a family, and I’ve worked at other jobs, and they’ve been good too, but nothing like Iris. I really feel like this is my second family. They make it personal. They make sure to appreciate and acknowledge the people who work with them, and they’re so easy to approach — even higher-up people in the administration. It doesn’t feel like a hierarchy. They are just ready to listen.

Dr. Tracy Mullare is an amazing human being. Dr. Thomas Milam, too. Then, of course, my Clinical Operations Managers have been excellent. Even if it means advocating for a need of mine at the facility where I’m working, making sure things are running smoothly for me.

Iris also ensures we can keep a work-life balance by building that admin time into the workday. They’re mindful of our needs, providing many benefits, whether it’s attending conferences or providing office supplies and expenses. Iris gives me so much in so many ways that make my work day smooth. It keeps me wanting to stay at Iris. It’s the best job I’ve ever had so far.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. It gives flexibility to many people in different ways. For example, someone who’s a university student or someone working doesn’t have to take a significant amount of time off to come in for a visit. It’s helpful for them and for people with physical disabilities who have a hard time getting into the office for a visit. It helps people with transportation issues, who don’t have someone to give them a ride, or if there’s a weather issue.

Telehealth breaks all those things that could have been barriers and limitations for people to show up for a visit. It’s generally helpful to ensure that more people are seen as regularly as needed. Sometimes they forget about their appointment, and we remind them, and they can take their visit from the computer. For in-person visits, if they’re somewhere else and get a reminder, they may not be able to get to the office on time. Telehealth makes sure those barriers are no longer barriers.

As I work at facilities in other states, especially in these rural underserved areas, many tell me they’ve been waiting a year to see a psychiatrist—especially child psychiatrists. Sometimes the nearest child psychiatrist could be many towns away, and now it’s a click away. That’s why it can be really helpful to make sure that none of these are barriers for patients to get the care they need.

Q. What advice would you give to someone new to telepsychiatry?

A. I would tell them to make sure that when they’re at work, to imagine that they’re at an office, not at home – to keep that professionalism intact and ensure they’re using their work hours well and not leaving work for later.

Make sure you have good communication with the team working on the other side supporting you. For example, get to know exactly which one is going to help you, in which way, and how you can connect the patient to other services with the staff who’s already there. Sometimes it’s told to you, and sometimes it’s not. So as much information as we can get and as much of a relationship you can have, whether it’s a nurse, a social worker, or a medical assistant, it can help you communicate to them what you would need for your visit.

Each of us operates and functions differently. There’s certain information they can get for us that can be helpful for the visit. So, use that and have positive connections because sometimes it can be isolating when you’re at home and not meeting people at work as you would.

And then, the show rates improve with telepsychiatry, which is good but can mean we don’t have the breaks that we would have in the office sometimes when there are no-shows. That means we need to manage our time more effectively. Be sure to be organized, manage your time well, manage your connections with the on-site team, and communicate your expectations and what you would like.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Kavita Vasu. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Sarah Mendenhall, PMHNP.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I was doing telehealth for another company and wasn’t happy, so I started looking for other opportunities. I liked that Iris had more traditional full-time positions with comprehensive benefits versus many other places I had applied to at the time that had more contract-based positions. I was looking for something else more long-term and settled.

Q. How does telehealth compare to in-person care?

A. It’s pretty comparable in my opinion. It’s very convenient, especially with the onset of COVID, it’s been easier to reach people in their homes with some of the lax in regulations. We’ve been able to do a lot more phone calls for some visits or Zoom meetings from people’s homes, which has been convenient because I tend to work in very rural communities in various parts of the country, and getting them to come to the office sometimes can be very difficult.

I like that you can reach patients where they are to help improve their ability to engage in treatment. That’s a wonderful thing.

I do miss being in the office and being around colleagues a little bit more and those types of day-to-day benefits. However, because of technology, I’m able to stay connected with my coworkers in a very fulfilling way as well as just bridging the gap with patients. Video conferencing is still useful, and it doesn’t feel too impersonal like I feared it would before I transitioned to all telehealth.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. It helps to start, especially when you first meet with the patient, by telling them where you are to try to help them understand that you aren’t just another person. I also like to reassure them sometimes that I’m a provider that’s been with the clinic where they’re seeing me for an extended period of time. I’m not planning on transitioning anywhere because sometimes, that can be difficult when engaging in mental health treatment, especially if there’s been high turnover. I know that’s been a concern for some patients with virtual versus in-person providers.

Fostering connection is similar to how I have always done. You try to learn about people and who they are on a day-to-day basis and see if there are just ways to connect with them, and that’s just the best way I can find to connect with people.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. I’m not always the best. I probably read emails more on my days off than I should, but luckily I don’t get too many. I have my dedicated workspace, which helps a lot, especially if you’re working within your home. That’s an incredibly important piece to help maintain your mental health because it can be difficult not to leave your home very much, especially when you’re first getting used to it. Then, when I’m finished with work, I spend time with my family. I have two very small children, a two-year-old and a seven-month-old, so they tend to keep me very grounded because it’s hard to focus on other things when I’m not in my office doing work.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. It is probably when clients tell me they feel heard and listened to. That’s always an experience I hope my patients have with me. And when I have a patient that expresses those feelings towards our provider-client relationship, it makes me feel like I am doing a good job because it can be hard to always feel that way in anything, but especially in this field, it can be really easy to feel like you aren’t doing a good job and you could be helping more and all those types of things. That’s the most fulfilling thing when patients express those thoughts and feelings to me. And just seeing people improve, get through something challenging, and feel better afterward.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. It gives me the freedom to have a really good work-life balance. Iris cares about their providers and really works to bridge the gap between you and your placement. So if you’re having an issue, maybe with your placement, something that you wish was going a little bit better, or anything that could come up, you have someone that has your back, and that is going try to negotiate with you and for you, and that can help ease a lot of stress.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. The access. When people struggle with their mental health, it’s very hard to engage, and it can be very difficult or exhausting to get up and leave your house sometimes. Or you could be having an issue at the hospital or while you’re incarcerated, and we can reach people in many different ways and expand our collaboration with multiple areas.

Q. What advice would you give someone new to telehealth?

A. Look at your camera, not your patient, because that helps facilitate eye contact. Still, look at your patient, of course, but if you want to inspire the eye contact feeling, then look at your camera lens. That’s the biggest thing. I think that’s the biggest piece of advice because otherwise, it’s similar to being in person.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Sarah Mendenhall. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dennis Dodd, a PMHNP practicing in California.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I saw ads on Indeed when I was doing job searches, and I kept seeing Iris. I applied to another online company first, and they responded to me initially, and unfortunately, that didn’t work out. I didn’t like the way they did things, but Iris was so professional and on the ball that I was exceedingly impressed right from the very beginning.

Q. How does teletherapy compare to in-person work?

A. There are some significant advantages, and there are some minor disadvantages. The disadvantage is that some senses are missing when meeting people. For instance, I attended a continuing medical education seminar yesterday morning about smoking. And unless I ask somebody if they smoke, I can’t tell. But a lot of times when I met someone in person, they walked in the room, and you would know if they smoked. There are just some senses that are missing, and you can’t always see their whole body. I remember one time, a patient with OCD came in, and their hands were beet red because they were washing their hands so much. You can’t always see that online, but you learn how to adapt.

One of the major advantages is that I can reach people that are literally on the other side of the country. I’m seeing patients in California, and that’s amazing if you stop and think about it. It’s also safer for me.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. It’s really the same way I did it in person, in many respects. I show an interest in their lives. I ask them a lot of questions that are pertinent to their lives and what’s been going on for them. I laugh with them. I empathize with them. And it’s easy to connect emotionally with people, even if you’re doing it virtually.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. It’s tremendously easier managing work-life balance from home because my commute is really short, and it’s incredible how much time and money goes into working at a distant site from your home.

When I used to commute from where I lived in downtown Chattanooga, it took me 25-40 minutes sometimes each way in traffic, which I hate. I hate sitting in traffic. I also don’t have to do nearly as much laundry. It sounds crazy, but when you work virtually, you’re not wearing as many clothes, and you’re not getting them dirty. I save on gas. When I’m done with work, I’m home. It’s very nice.

Q. How does living in eastern time and working in pacific time help create a schedule that fosters work-life balance?

A. It works out well for my wife and me because my wife works 12-hour days. She’s also a nurse practitioner. She works with families, but she works in an urgent care center. She works from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and I finish at 8:00 p.m. when she gets home. When she leaves, I haven’t started work yet. I don’t ever have to use an alarm clock. I wake up when I wake up, which I love. The hours may not always be ideal. Sometimes I wish I could do things I can’t do in the evening. But I do have time in the mornings to do some things.

For example, I’ve had a doctor’s appointment at eight in the morning, and I’m home with plenty of time to start work. I only work four days a week and have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off. That has probably been the best thing for me in terms of work-life balance of any of the other choices that I made in this new job. Everybody was supportive of that, the clinic and Iris. So I appreciate that.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. For me, it’s always been the connection with the people. To have them return after I start them on medicine and say, “Things are so much better. Thank you so much for what you’ve done for me.” There’s no substitute for having somebody lift out of deep depression or intense anxiety and know that it was something that you had a hand in, and now they feel a whole lot better, and their quality of life is better. That’s a really marvelous feeling.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. Everything combined has made Iris a wonderful workplace. I’m working from home, I don’t have a commute, and it’s a great work-life balance. I’m able to be a competent professional in a nice setting in California and have all the wonderful support Iris provides. If I had to design a perfect job in this role, I don’t know that I could do any better than Iris has done.

Q. How does the support COMs provide help you in your role?

A. I’m going on vacation in a few weeks, and my Clinical Operations Manager (COM) is arranging for someone to cover my calls. Every day I get at least four or five patient calls and requests for medicine refills, and somebody’s got to cover that. I’m going to be gone for almost ten days. It’s not fair for patients to have to wait that long. The COMs have gone out of their way to help me with anything that comes up.

Melissa and Beth are on it whenever I call or email them and say, “Hey, I’ve got this little problem.” I had a few minor issues with some of the things at the clinic, and I just talked to them about it. They got on the phone with the director and worked out some logistics and solutions, and it was just wonderful. They’re on the ball.

Q. Why do you think teletherapy is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. The most significant advantage and importance is the fact that it reaches people that otherwise might not get care. I think in a nutshell, that’s the whole ball of wax. I’m seeing people in California while living in Tennessee. The company that I’m working with out there was having an extraordinarily difficult time finding qualified providers. I don’t know why, but that’s the facts. I’m seeing people in their clinic that have great needs.

Q. What advice would you give to someone new to teletherapy?

A. Before I joined Iris, I went and sat with a friend working with another online company and watched what she did. We, of course, got permission both from the patient and from her company. I signed a release and everything, but I sat with somebody to see what it was like and to watch her perform online counseling. I knew right away that I would like it. I would definitely encourage people to go and observe or sit in with somebody for a little while for a few hours to see what it’s like and to make sure that’s what you’d want. Because once you get started, it’s hard to start all over again.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dennis Dodd. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. María López-Rosario.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A. I was working at a pretty terrible job in community psychiatry. I’ve always loved community psychiatry, and that’s what I wanted to do. However, at that point in my life, I needed more flexibility. So, I reached out to my residency colleagues, and two of them were working for Iris, and they are one of my best friends from residency. I trusted them and applied, and here I am after four years, and one of them is still working for Iris, too. It feels like a flexible, comfortable place for them and has been for me, too.

Q. How does telepsychiatry compare to in-person work?

A. That question was probably the biggest one in my mind before I did telepsychiatry because, before Iris, I had never done telework. It is different in the beginning, but it feels like it’s not different once you start, and once you begin an appointment and get to know the person, it feels like the computer and the camera go away. Because I deal with mostly children and adolescents, sometimes the little kids can be a little hard to engage in the camera because they’re so active and energetic. You need to figure out a way to engage them.

For example, I’ll change my virtual background. If I know I have a seven-year-old, I’ll put a Minecraft background on, which makes it easier to get started. It’s different because you might need to put a little more work into engagement, but, in the end, once engagement and rapport are built, the computer screen’s camera really goes away.

I’ll use Minecraft, Pokemon, and Unicorns – as long as you have something in vogue and trendy with the kiddos, it’s fun, and they’ll engage. It is a way to get to know them, too. It’s just a way to personalize the meeting.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A. In general, I think technology and virtual environments are what kids and adolescents engage with these days. Because this population is the majority of the patients I see, I don’t think it’s hard at all, especially for adolescents. They even sometimes prefer it. If they have a severe anxiety disorder, they might put the camera away. I’ve even had kids I see face-to-face write something in the chat. Like, “I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but it’s not as personal if I just write it out.”

I usually try to see the patient alone, but if the parent is around, they might say, “Okay, I’m going to write this in the chat because I don’t want anybody to hear it.” And they’ll write something like, “I have a girlfriend.” It’s more private and chat doesn’t make it personal. I’m still getting all the information in whatever way they like to give it to me.

Being virtual gives you a lot more options than being in person.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A. Work-life balance is one of the reasons I chose telehealth. I think work-life balance is super important. Because my clinic starts a little later in the day, I can get up pretty early, drop my daughter off at daycare, drop my son off at school, work out, shower, and then connect. I have a few hours that I actually take care of myself a little bit. Of course, I love vacations, and I love food. So I always take my vacation, and I go traveling. I go out to eat. I’m with my family. And the fact that I can disconnect and just kind of be here, it’s helpful to foster that work-life balance.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. It’s a hard question because my work is so rewarding overall. It can be difficult. It’s very heavy sometimes. We kind of swallow and absorb a lot of the problems that are happening with our patients, but there’s so much reward in seeing kids and adolescents thrive and become successful adults.

Whenever I get that question, a particular patient always comes to mind. I had been working with a patient who was about 14 when I first started treating her. She has pretty significant anorexia nervosa. She was a very smart, bright child, but her brain was starving. So, she was doing really poorly in school. She sometimes didn’t have energy.

Then whenever we started treating her with medication on my part, therapy from the team, and support altogether, she slowly regained weight and started being herself again. I treat community mental health, so this population is poor, underserved people. At the end of the day, she was able to graduate, and she was given a scholarship to Harvard. It was such a big experience. It was not only that she got better from the anorexia, but she was confident, independent, and able to get out in the world, and have such an amazing accomplishment. The success of my patients is the most rewarding.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A. Iris is really the best company I’ve ever worked with. It’s probably been the only company that treats you more as an individual rather than as, you know, “you’re just one of the doctors here.” Whenever I was one or two years in, my manager sent me an amazing gift. She sent me a drawing of myself in a cape. In one hand, I was holding a pizza slice, and the other was holding a weight. It was so heartwarming because she knows me. She knows I’m a foodie, and she knows I love to go out and take care of myself, too.

Then, alongside the picture was a charcuterie board shaped like Puerto Rico. I am from Puerto Rico, and she knows I am super proud of my Puerto Rican roots. I don’t think even someone in my family would give me such a significant gift. I think the details are key. I don’t think any other company would care about that.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A. I think it’s paramount and essential — not only telepsychiatry but telemedicine work in general. We learned how important it was during the pandemic. The fact that you can stay safe, not expose yourself to COVID, and click and connect with quality care. That was lifesaving for many people, especially underserved people. The clinic that I work with is in Los Angeles. There’s a huge gap between the underserved population versus the affluent people. Most patients don’t even have a car or money to take a bus.

I think telepsychiatry, and telemedicine in general, have built a very strong bridge. The care that wasn’t even being provided before is now in the palm of your hand or your home office. Mental health is really a thing that’s getting worse. We’re getting more mental health problems and psychiatric illnesses, and the fact that people can click and get help decreases stigma, increases connection and the personalization of work. It’s here to stay. I don’t think it’s going to go away because if it does go away, it’ll hurt the health of the country.

Q. What advice would you give to someone new to telepsychiatry?

A. I would just say jump into it. It seems scary at first because of the lack of connection with colleagues. You are in either your home or office, probably by yourself, that part is scary. My advice would be to stay connected with either your fellowship bodies or residency bodies – you can even stay connected virtually. You can even do super visual supervision. I think my advice is not to lose that connection with your location and your local colleagues.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. López-Rosario. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dr. Paul Vance.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A: I worked in a community mental health center for about a dozen years, and in 2016 I decided to move to the West coast with my family. My daughter just graduated high school. I loved the job I came from, but I didn’t like the job that I went to in Oregon. We’d already purchased a house, and at that point, you’re stuck. I looked around and found Iris. I’d had a great job for about 12 years and then a not-so-great job for 18 months. I didn’t look at Iris as “I hope they hire me.” I looked at Iris instead, asking, “am I going to work there, and will I enjoy it?”

I had a great interview and then looked on the internet about what other providers were saying about Iris, and it was positive. I initially joined Iris thinking I would do it until I found something else I liked, but I rapidly fell in love with Iris and haven’t looked elsewhere.

Q. How does telepsychiatry compare to in-person work?

A: I’m working at a community mental health center in Mississippi, and before, I worked at a community mental health center in person. The jobs are very similar to each other. The difference is, safety-wise, my wife is a lot happier where I’m working now. In 12 years, I’d taken a gun from a patient who pointed one at me, a box cutter, and a set of knives. I did a lot of state hospital step-downs and court-ordered treatment, and many times people weren’t very happy with you when you’re doing that. I don’t have that problem now. I don’t have to worry about someone following me home or knowing where my kids are going to grade school.

That’s a big difference. It’s just simply safer from that point of view. The other part that’s different from it is you have a lot more time. I walk into work at 8:50 or 8:55. Before it would’ve been 8:15, I would’ve left the house. I probably wouldn’t have gone to the gym before work because it was too long to drive. Then you have to shower. Time-wise, you may work the same number of hours, but you save several hours per day just simply not doing the stuff you did when driving someplace. As far as working with nurses and patients, you all forget that you’re on a computer. I send pictures to the nurses of my dogs. They send me pictures of their kids. It goes back and forth. It’s about the same as what it is when you work in an office.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A: I think fostering a connection virtually is easier. That may be due to the patient load I like treating. I like treating people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder. These patients are often more comfortable because you’re not in the room. They like the idea that they’re by themselves. You’re not going to see them in the community. I was quite surprised by that. But, often, it’s just simply easier, and that goes for patients without severe mental illness, too. Quite a few patients are more comfortable talking to you when you’re not there rather than if you’re actually in the room with them.

That means sometimes giving you personal information they might be more uncomfortable giving. For example, I think it’s easier for someone to say, “I do methamphetamines” and “I drank a lot of alcohol,” if you’re not there. I think it’s surprising for me. At first, I thought it would be difficult to connect, and it’s actually far easier.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A: I helped lead a lot of other physicians when I worked at the community mental health center. One thing is you have to have interests that don’t have anything to do with being a physician. I’ve been married for a long time. We have a freezer full of mushrooms that we pick from the woods. We do a lot of gardening. We forage for plants. We hike our dogs. We’ve coached soccer, cross country, and track. I’ve helped a couple of teams win state championships. It’s more about having an interest that you’re simply interested in. That way, when you finish work, you don’t sit down and veg out but are excited to do something else. That’s part of it.

And then the other part I’ve seen this with virtual physicians and then in-person physicians is, if you’re not organized, if you don’t finish your notes quickly, and practice writing notes well, what happens is you’ll see many physicians spend several hours after they finish work on notes. That doesn’t have anything to do with the computer, but that drains you.

I always make sure my notes are done before taking a break at lunch. Before I finish work at the end of the day, I’m done. And usually, if the work shift ends at five o’clock, I’m walking out the door by 5:05. Organization comes with it.
The last one is what I always tell patients. You should treat yourself as well as you treat your dog. Feed it well. Walk it every day. Get it up on time. Make it go to bed on time. Just live a healthy life, which helps you have an outside interest.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: I like seeing people get better. When I entered medicine, I figured out pretty quickly that a lot of the specialties I simply did not want to do because they were focused on treating disease. I see people with severe mental illness, but that’s just a part of who they are. My big focus is I want you to live a healthier life. I want you to be better with your kids. I want you to be better with your community. I want you to get out and move. And when you see patients do that, to me, that’s the most rewarding part.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A: Iris is pretty responsive. That was kind of scary at first because I could say, “Hey, I’m having an issue,” and somebody would call me within about three minutes. I wasn’t used to that. They’re interested in ensuring you’re happy, the clinic is happy, and everything is running smoothly. I was used to working in the community mental health center, where you have to throw a fit to get your computer fixed. That hasn’t happened with Iris. It just simply happens. I say, “I’ve got a problem,” and they fix it.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A: It’s already happened that way for the most part. If you’re in a rural community or live in an inner city, you will only get mental health care if you have a psychiatrist that’s being remoted in. I work in two towns in northern Mississippi, and their nearest physician is in Memphis. I think it’s an hour and a half away. They’re not going to do that. Many people don’t have cars; if they do, they can’t make an hour and a half drive. I grew up in a small town of 1,500. We never had a physician in the town. You never went to the doctor because the nearest physician was an hour away, and I grew up on a farm. That didn’t happen. Everybody’s moving to the cities, and those inner cities will need care, and telemedicine is the only way it will be provided. Then the rural communities are the same. For the people who are deciding to stay there, telemedicine is the only way they’re going to get care.

Q. What advice would you give to someone new to telepsychiatry?

A: The big advice I would give is very practical. I have three screens. I look at the patient on one screen, and I have a second screen off to the left and a third screen off to the right. That’s the smallest advice you could give, but having an adequate screen, a keyboard that works, a mouse that you know, where it is, and having your printer where you can reach it, are crucial. I’ve talked to one other psychiatrist doing virtual, and I could see them looking at me because they were close to the screen, which meant I knew they had a small screen. That doesn’t work. The best thing is to organize your workspace, which is different from seeing a patient in person.

I wouldn’t even have the screen if I saw a patient in person. I wouldn’t even have a computer or a keyboard sitting in front of them. That part’s different. Office organization is the most important thing. Then, the other which I did with both sites is do whatever you need to do to have the site you’re working with allow you to access their medical record before you start working. Those two are practical.

On the flip side, it’s far easier to be organized in telepsychiatry than in person. You don’t have charts that you’re fooling around with. When you close the record out, it’s closed. That part makes it easy. You can take notes on the desk on the paper beside you if you need to. That part is easier, but it’s really not good if you’re not organized.

Q. What are some benefits you’ve found from working remotely?

A: I entered the relationship with Iris reluctantly. I was looking desperately to keep my house and still be able to work and not move. The only thing I would’ve done differently is I would’ve probably looked for Iris several years earlier. I can’t believe the lifestyle change in a very positive way. I hike every single day. I missed one day the last year in the national forest.

I moved from Oregon to Kentucky while working for Iris. Four years ago, when I moved from Kentucky to Oregon, I had to change jobs. I had to make sure all kinds of things were just done. When I moved from Oregon to Kentucky, I was still employed with Iris. It was simply a matter of taking a week’s vacation and plugging myself into a new room. That was such a lifesaver. It was unreal as far as timewise, money, and everything else. We may move again, but it’s easy when you’re not changing work.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Vance. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with once of our incredible child psychiatrists, Dr. Manoela Denman.

Q. What does a typical day as an Iris Telehealth provider look like for you?

A: My clinic starts a little later in the day because I work on the west coast and live in Texas. I can wake up in the morning and go to the gym, work out, come home, shower, and then start my day, which I think is the best thing ever for quality of life. I see about 10-12 patients a day. Depending on my clinic, I have a lunch break that is a little bit longer, which is also good. I get done at the end of the afternoon like most people, and then I enjoy time with my family.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A: That can be challenging, especially as a child psychiatrist working with kids. You try to get to know them better, ask questions about what they enjoy doing and how they are doing, and some patients are more comfortable with a camera. Some other patients are very uncomfortable, so it takes a little time to get them to be able to speak with us and open up. But usually, in most cases, we’re able to connect pretty well.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A: I get to work out early in the morning, which is very rewarding. I get to spend time with my family, and working from home really allows me to do so much more than when I had to drive to the clinic and spend the entire day there. That’s what made me stay with Iris and continue working via telemedicine – I just completed four years with Iris. I really enjoy having all this flexibility and ability to spend time with family and get everything I need to get done during my day and still work an eight-hour shift. That is definitely a good thing.

Q. What are your biggest learnings from your time at Iris?

A: One of the things that I had to learn was how to work from home on my own. Even though I’m interacting with people over the computer or the phone, one of the things you kind of lose from working remotely is the interaction with others at the office. You have to make sure you maintain a connection with the staff. Although you’re far from them, it’s important to maintain that connection by chatting here and there and asking about their lives. It’s also important to maintain your social relationships outside of work.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: The most rewarding thing about being a child psychiatrist is helping people early on in life and helping change their trajectory so they don’t have to struggle with depression for years and years and get treatment later on. Sometimes there are experiences that they’re going to lose or miss. However, by helping them at an earlier age, we’re able to make sure that they can still finish school, go to prom, enjoy things, play the sports they want to play, and be more successful adults.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A: One of the things I really enjoy about Iris is the way they treat their providers. One of the reasons I ended up signing with Iris was a very small gift I received. I was interviewing with different companies and had a pretty good offer from another company. I was thinking about working with them. But after my interaction with Adam, who was the VP at the time, I changed my mind. We talked very briefly about the things I like to watch, and at that time, I was really into “Better Call Saul.” Although I was not even going to stay with Iris, Adam Hemmen sent me this little gift, and I still have it here on my desk. I thought it was the cutest thing.

That’s what Iris is, always making sure they keep us in mind, sending us small gifts at Christmas or other times. It’s not really about how much it costs, but that they’re remembering and treating us nicely and making sure that we’re happy working here. That’s really, really important.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A: In the last four years of working with telepsychiatrists, I realized that there are not many psychiatrists, especially in smaller areas or towns. Telepsychiatry can make sure that people anywhere can get help. That’s very, very important. Of course, meeting somebody in person is amazing, and it’s a different connection, but it’s not possible. We don’t have that many psychiatrists, and we don’t have psychiatrists everywhere. Through telepsychiatry, we’re able to ensure that if you need help and are interested in getting help, you’re going to be able to get it.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dr. Manoela Denman. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.

Tag Archives: Clinician Corner

Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Serena Loh, PMHNP.

Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?

A: I found out about Iris through Indeed, where I was looking for telepsychiatry jobs. There was a job posting for a Mandarin-speaking Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). I signed up for that, and I got connected to Erin Schepmann.

Q. What does a typical day as an Iris Telehealth provider look like for you?

A: I work remotely from my home in Indiana and see patients at the Herald Christian Health Center in California. There’s a time difference of three hours, and I start my day at 11:30 a.m. and work until 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. The day involves seeing patients for initial evaluations, which are one hour, and then follow-up sessions are 20-30 minutes. I do the scheduling myself because it’s the easiest when I can book the next appointment with the patient right there with me. It can be hard for the scheduler to get a hold of the patients after their appointment.

It’s very flexible for the amount of time I can see the patients. I work eight hours a day and will have some admin time and a little lunch break. I work very closely with my case manager assistant, Nicole Song. If I have any issues during the day, I’ll send her text messages, and she’ll help me coordinate, which is very helpful. I don’t feel like I’m working alone.

Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?

A: For a virtual session, I will explain what the session entails and let them know roughly how much time it takes. On the initial evaluation, I’ll set expectations for no-shows and let them know if there are any questions I ask them that are too personal or too sensitive to be talked about at the first session, they can tell me to skip it, and it’s totally fine. I also let them know if they’re thirsty, they’re welcome to drink water. That can put them at ease. Virtually, most patients will be sitting still, but some patients do different things during the session, which sometimes happens due to their situation. If they’re driving, I’ll ask them if they’ll be able to park soon, let them know we can hold on, or re-schedule if they need.

However, because I work with the low-income bracket in California, some patients don’t always have access to video calls on their phone or wifi capabilities, so sometimes I talk to them over the phone with the company’s app for calling. There is also a clinic within the site where they can go for video calls with me if they can get there.

Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

A: Work-life balance is very important. For me, I try to do something I enjoy every day. Such as reading, exercising, or spending time with my loved ones. I think it’s important to have that self-care time and to set boundaries with checking emails and checking work stuff. On off days, I have to really set a physical, emotional, and mental limit on those.

Q. What are your biggest learnings from your time at Iris?

A: I’ve been learning a lot from my two medical collaborators Dr. Margery Johnson and Dr. Regina Bahten. They’re both very instrumental to my clinical skills and growth as they supervise my work. I learn a lot from them, especially for complex cases. I learn about different ways of treatment and different approaches for conditions such as ADHD.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: I think the most rewarding part of my job is having a good relationship with my clinical colleagues at Herald Christian Health Center. I’m very thankful that the health center is a perfect fit for me. And I enjoy working with them a lot because we know there’s a limit to how much we can help patients sometimes. Our role is to be a support and to help them as much as we can with treatment. However, at the end of the day, I feel like I’m part of a team working together for the patient, there’s a great sense of satisfaction – knowing that we all have the same goals, vision, and values.

Q. What do you love about working with Iris?

A: Iris is a very nice company to work for. I remember before I even joined Iris, they sent me a Christmas package, and I was so surprised. And then they sent me a birthday cake and a Christmas present last year. During my first month at Iris, my manager Melissa Kennedy sent me a gift basket of goodies – that’s a lot of goodies from Iris!

Iris is also very responsive to our needs and helps with any issues.

Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?

A: During the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities shut down, and people didn’t like to travel for fear of catching the virus. Telepsychiatry opens up many options for people who are home-bound, do not have a vehicle, or have difficulty getting transportation to a facility. It opens up access to providers because some places have a shortage of providers, and the wait time is very long, like three to four months. But if you have telepsychiatry, the pool is widened to all over the U.S., as long as the provider is licensed in that state.

Telepsychiatry also gives the patient a shorter waiting time. And, evidence has shown that telepsychiatry is just as effective as in-person psychiatry.

At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Serena Loh. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.