TeleHospitalist Delivers Remote Patient Care from Australia
Most days, Rebecca Jentzen, MD, is “beaming in” from Australia to provide remote patient care in her role as an Eagle TeleHospitalist. She works with 11 hospitals and one healthcare system with five hospitals, from coast to coast in the US, and her Aussie location is ideal for connecting with all four US time zones.
Dr. Jentzen is a Texas native who pursued medical training in Houston, then Colorado — where she fell in love with an Aussie, then figured out a career path that fit her dreams.
Broadening her horizons
A medical career was always in the background for Dr. Jentzen. She enjoyed science classes in college, including the clear-cut answers that science provides. She also liked learning about emerging science and considered a Ph.D. to pursue scientific research.
But a brief stint with zebrafish research helped fine-tune her career path: “Zebrafish don’t have good communication skills,” she says. “I missed the human aspect of science. That’s when I decided to go for pre-med, in my second year of college.”
Next stop — University of Texas Medical School in Houston, since she was still a Texas resident. “I loved training there; it’s such a jewel, the largest medical center in the world,” says Dr. Jentzen.
Following medical school, Dr. Jentzen went to Denver, Colorado for her internal medicine residency. “I believe that going to different schools opens us up to new ideas,” she explains. She stayed in Denver for seven more years working as an internal medicine specialist and hospitalist with two different hospitals. That gave her the broadened experience she craved.
Blending bedside manner with remote patient care
Dr. Jentzen joined Eagle Telemedicine in 2017, and easily adapted to the TeleHospitalist approach to remote patient care — guided by a strong sense of empathy.
“When a patient is in the hospital, it’s one of the worst days of their lives,” she explains. “Just being there for them…helping them feel less alone… is important.”
Patients who are well over age 80 have a special place in her heart. “I worked in a geriatric unit at one hospital, and really enjoyed them, heard a lot of great stories, some serious, some hilarious,” she says. “That’s a really special age group.”
She makes a special effort to connect with the entire patient care team on a more personal level. “I need them to trust me,” she says. “If they’re not too busy one night, I will chat with them. That relationship helps when we collaborate with remote patient care.”
A typical day for a hospitalist
Dr. Jentzen’s patients often have chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. However, there will also be the patient who thinks they have one problem, shoulder pain, for example. But an x-ray reveals a lump, and a CAT scan shows he has cancer throughout his body. This is one of the challenges of remote patient care. The patient needs to hear how you came to the diagnosis, what it means for their care and what are the next steps.
She understands the patient’s emotions. “He came in thinking he’ll get a referral for physical therapy, but now he’s overwhelmed by the whole experience.”
Dr. Jentzen has found a special way to help those patients get through their crises. Sharing her own cancer story often helps. “People think you don’t understand, but I’ve had cancer, I’ve had chemo. I don’t share this with everybody, but if the patient needs to feel less alone, I will share that space with them.”
Another patient might have a complicated problem like heart failure. But their doctor hasn’t explained it well for them. “I try to bridge that gap — really take my time explaining it to them.”
She also helps patients feel less lost. “When they get swept up into the medical system, they can feel like a number or an echo or a stress test or a piece of data to the doctors,” she says. “I really help empower the patients to help them understand — so they can question their doctors. I want them to feel fully involved in their own care — so they feel good about it.”
The leap from Colorado to Australia?
While living in Denver, Dr. Jentzen met her husband, a native Australian. When they started getting serious, they talked about where to raise their children. “I had moved around a lot as a child, and thought moving would be a great opportunity since all his family and friends would be there,” she says.
Settling in Australia, she decided to explore telemedicine as a career move. She researched various telemedicine providers, and “found some seemed risky because their technology wasn’t very high-end,” Dr. Jentzen explains. “They weren’t at the level of Eagle Telemedicine, which had a very innovative way of delivering care at the hospital level.”
She landed with Eagle, where “I knew I could feel confident about practicing medicine at the highest level of my ability,” says Dr. Jentzen. “The technology is fully integrated so I can see and talk to the physicians and patients, I can see the x-rays, EKGs, MRIs. It was innovative and allowed me to deliver the right level of care for my patients.”
Just six weeks after her chemotherapy ended, Dr. Jentzen gave birth to her son. At this writing, her son is six months old, happy and healthy. She loves living in Australia, but is still surprised by the wonders her new life presents. Not long ago, she was napping and woke up to find two kangaroos at the back door and a wombat at the front door. “I said, where am I living”?
She enjoys lifting weights for a good workout, as well as walks along the beach with her Colorado-born rescue dog, Luna, her husband, and her very young son — in a pouch. “I love the rural countryside of Australia,” she says. “There are so many beautiful towns.”