One Patient’s Story: Why Connection Matters in Orthopedic Telehealth

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doctor on laptop for telehealth appointment

Junko Horvath, a certified financial planner at Fujiyama Wealth Management, is active and enjoys getting outside and exploring nature. So, when she injured her knee a few months ago on a hike, she quickly scheduled an appointment with her orthopedist. But, even after meeting with two orthopedic surgeons in the region, she still didn’t feel like they had taken the time to listen and connect with her. That’s when she found John William Xerogeanes, MD (or Dr. X as he’s known by his patients). Junko was immediately impressed by the time he took to build a connection with her, even over a virtual visit, and was confident in his recommended course of treatment. Hear her story, in her own words.

Why Did I Choose Dr. X Over Others?

By Junko Horvath

I recently had an inspiring experience and learned a great lesson from a surgeon that I met through Zoom telehealth. Two months ago, I injured my right knee while hiking and went to my orthopedist for a diagnosis. She did an X-ray and MRI and concluded that I have a lateral meniscus tear and needed surgery done. She said that the tear would get bigger in the future and my knee would not go back to the original state it was in before, if no surgery was performed. At the end of the appointment, she told me, “OK, young lady, make an appointment for a surgery and I will meet you in the main hospital.”

I went to get a second opinion, just to be sure, with another surgeon who is regarded as one of Atlanta’s very best surgeons. He used a picture of the human body on a wall in his office to explain to me where the tear was and why I should do the surgery. He also said that my tear would not be cured by doing exercises. He was very pleasant and thorough to meet with, and someone who is well versed in this area.

Those two doctors both work in well-known practices in Atlanta and are great doctors.

Right after I made the second opinion appointment, my friend who had moved to Israel was in town and she visited me. She saw me limping and talked about a surgeon who operated on her knee. She enthusiastically praised him for how wonderful he was. She said that the surgeon’s name was very long and she didn’t remember it, but I figured that one of my clients referred her to the doctor. I called my client who recently retired and moved to the West. He said that he trusts this doctor completely and would even come back to Atlanta if he had knee issues in the future to have him operate on him. I originally did not plan to get a third opinion, but due to their enthusiasm about this doctor, I decided to give it a try. Though people often visit me for counseling of managing their wealth and getting a second opinion, this was one of the first experiences where I sought help and wanted to hear from multiple people as well.

Before the Zoom call with Dr. X, I uploaded my MRI result and the original doctor’s note to a portal. When the Zoom call started, the doctor’s assistant initially appeared and asked me about my allergies and medications. Soon after, the doctor’s nurse appeared on the screen too and asked me what I do for a living as well as what kind of exercises I do. She said that they were running a little bit behind and she apologized for the delay. I do not remember the last time that someone from a doctor’s office apologized for a delay. Soon after that, Dr. X showed up on the screen with a big, bright smile.

He started by mentioning a book that he used to love, whose author actually shared the same last name as mine. My nervousness to meet with the chief doctor at Emory’s Sports Medicine went away very quickly. He then asked me to stand up with my right leg only and twist my body left and right. He then asked me how much pain I would have if he were with me and pushed my right knee down to the ground and stretched it to top and bottom. He asked me whether I am working with a physical therapist and what kind of exercises I am doing with her and at home. No other doctor that I had met with asked me these kinds of lifestyle questions.

Surprisingly, he said that he would not recommend a surgery for me. He said that it is much more important that I ride a stationary bike or swim and do more aggressive muscle training than having a surgery performed. He asked me where I live and recommended a great physical therapist near my house. At the end, looking at the Mt. Fuji picture on my wall through Zoom, he asked me whether I am Japanese. When I said yes, he told me how much he and his daughter were looking forward to making a trip to Japan this year, especially a city, Sapporo, and eating their favorite food, uni.

I decided to listen to Dr. X’s recommendation and not to perform the surgery. No other doctor was interested in carrying non-knee related conversations. With our 10 minutes Zoom call, I felt that I bonded with Dr. X deeply and trusted him. If he were to recommend a surgery, I would have definitely scheduled it with him. It was a delightful experience; though it was a Zoom call, he had me do this move and that move, while my in-person meetings did not even ask me to do these things.

I learned the importance of connecting with people emotionally. He tried to connect with me on a human level, not only as a knee surgeon. As a wealth manager, we tend to try to show off our knowledge and impress our clients, but that is not what makes us great advisors. Through this experience, I vow that I will be a better wealth manager by caring sincerely about each and every client, not only for their finances, but also for who they are as human beings.

Thank you, Dr. X, for teaching me a great life lesson!

This article originally appeared on Fujiyama Wealth Management’s website.

About Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center

Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center offers a full range of services to diagnose, treat and repair bones, joints and connective tissue, like muscles and tendons. Our team puts your health and well-being first. Part of our commitment to patients is making sure you receive the care you need, when you need it.

Your team at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center is now offering telehealth visits. Meaning, our health care professionals use videoconferencing to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using devices like your mobile phone or computer. Hear from one patient how it works.