Doctor Becomes Patient, Shares Experience with Telehealth

Retired family medicine physician, healthcare administrator and longtime telehealth advocate Dr. Richard P. Foster, of Wadmalaw Island, has been battling Pancreatic Cancer and for the first time, navigating the healthcare system as a patient. 

After his diagnosis earlier this year, Foster began treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor along with chemotherapy to kill any additional cancer cells. To help manage his symptoms, and to provide a range of support, he was offered palliative care and behavioral health services. He chose to receive those care visits from the comfort of his own home via telehealth. 

“Palliative care basically is a holistic approach for people with any kind of chronic illness on how you’re dealing with it from a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, functional, financial standpoint,” Foster said. 

There is a common misconception that palliative care and hospice care are the same, according to Dr. Amanda Overstreet, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at MUSC who provides palliative care to Foster. 

“Palliative care is much more than hospice, we prefer to see patients earlier in their disease because we’re able to really help them live as well as they can for as long as they can.” 

Nestled beneath the shade of large live oak trees on the sparsely populated and beautiful Wadmalaw Island, Foster’s home is a 45-minute drive from MUSC. To avoid dealing with traffic congestion and inconvenient parking options, Foster said he prefers to meet with his palliative care and behavioral health team virtually through telehealth. 

“We need to be able to show people that there’s a very large component of care that you receive that can be done just as well or better via telehealth,” Foster said.  

For Overstreet, the use of telehealth has expanded her services to even more patients throughout the state. She said telemedicine lends itself nicely to palliative care because oftentimes patients don’t feel physically well enough to travel to an outpatient clinic appointment and telehealth allows them to receive care at home. 

“The natural reach of telemedicine has been invaluable to our patients,” Overstreet said.