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Georgetown medical students grow MedStar telehealth program ‘from near 0 to 100 mph’

Georgetown students Tara Filsuf and Joey White helped MedStar Health grow from seven telehealth patients per day to a peak of 537 in less than a week.

WASHINGTON — They’re not doctors yet, with just one day left until medical school graduation. But two Georgetown students are now among those credited with helping MedStar Health to accelerate its telehealth service "from zero to 100 mph," as demand surged in the throes of the pandemic.

"I think they so far exceeded the challenge we set before them," MedStar Dr. Ethan Booker said of Georgetown Medical students Tara Filsuf and Joey White. "With the help of the Georgetown students who are with us right now, we managed to go from about seven patients a day on MedStar eVisit, to a peak of 537 in a little bit less than a week." 

Both Filsuf and White helped to build and coordinate the support structure of fellow medical students needed to expand the hospital system’s telehealth capacity.

"Just because our clinical rotations were canceled, didn’t mean that we had to stop serving our community," Filsuf said. "It was empowering to see that we don’t necessarily need an ‘MD’ behind our names to start contributing." 

The two seniors are now set to graduate on Sunday, with White headed to his residency at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Filsuf headed to hers at Stanford University.

The two were among the first Georgetown students to volunteer in supporting roles for the new way thousands of Americans are now seeing physicians.

"Tara and I, as the medical student coordinators, didn’t have a typical day," White said. “We worked with MedStar leadership to make sure all the telehealth teams were properly staffed to do their jobs effectively."

Perhaps conveying how telehealth will endure past the pandemic, Georgetown will now offer an elective on the virtual subject in the coming semester.

"We like to call it, 'web-side manner,'" Filsuf offered. "You have bedside manner if you’re in a hospital, but here, there are things you can do to make sure the patient feels confident, the technology is working for them, and just tools for doing the physical exam over a webcam." 

MedStar spokesperson Marianne Worley said a total of 55 Georgetown juniors and seniors worked remotely on duties such as triaging MedStar telehealth patients, to helping patients transition from virtual visits to testing tents, urgent clinics or emergency departments.

"Doctors delivering care via telehealth believe the students’ efforts were critical to their ability to remotely see so many patients so smoothly," Worley said. "Medical students also contributed to the management of ER, inpatient, and ICU telehealth consultation requests and are ramping up right now for remote patient monitoring."

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