She has always been one to think outside of the box.
In January 2020, Sherlonda Adkins, PA-C officially launched her mental health practice in Charleston, South Carolina, PsychMyWay. It didn’t take long for Adkins to find the perfect office space either. That’s because her practice lives almost entirely online, and she can practice right upstairs in her house.
Adkins began working with an overwhelmed psychiatrist while she was still in school. The doctor allowed her to see some patients under his supervision while she was still a student. He then hired her full-time once she graduated and passed PANCE in 2014.
“I found my passion,” she said. “It didn’t feel like work. I enjoyed it.”
While working with the doctor, Adkins treated a few patients who had challenges coming to the office for an appointment.
“I had patients with anxiety who didn’t feel comfortable coming to an office,” shared Adkins. “I even had one female patient with a baby she had to get ready and bring with her to appointments. It was difficult for her. She asked if she could have telephone appointments instead, but I couldn’t do that.”
At the time, South Carolina law did not offer Adkins many alternatives for these patients. But in 2019, that finally changed and physician assistants across the state could now use telemedicine to see mental health patients for routine visits. PAs still must see a patient in-person to prescribe medication.
“This new law bulldozed barriers,” explained Adkins. “Patients no longer have to worry about traffic. I can check-in with students away at school without them having to make a trip back home.”
Adkins’ patients also have the chance to receive treatment in a place where they feel most comfortable and safe.
“I once saw a patient while she was sitting in her bed.”
She can also provide more convenient times for those who may not be available during traditional hours. Like one man she treats for post-traumatic stress disorder who likes to have his wife sit in on his visits.
“We were able to schedule them in the evening to better fit his partner’s schedule.”
Telemedicine is also beneficial for Adkins.
“Before, I couldn’t imagine going to an office at 7 a.m. for an appointment,” she said. “Now I can just hop online. No need to worry about traffic or anything like that.”
Telemedicine also affords her more family time.
“I once had a follow-up appointment at seven at night. I was able to have dinner with my family, excuse myself, and go upstairs to my office for the appointment,” said Adkins of her improved work-life balance. “When I was done, I just went back downstairs with my husband and children.”
Adkins can see a patient from practically anywhere in the world, so long as she has a laptop, internet access, and a private space to talk. If she is on vacation or visiting her son who is away at school, she can still check in with her patients whenever and wherever they need her.
But telemedicine is not just about convenience, it’s also about access.
In some parts of South Carolina, there may not be an adequate number of mental health professionals to take care of the community. Adkins can help fill that void.
“I have two patients who live far from me,” explained Adkins. “One lives an hour and 45 minutes away in a small town and another is two and a half hours away in a rural area.”
If it were not for Adkin’s telemedicine practice, those two patients may not have received the treatment they need.
Adkins encourages her physician assistant peers to explore the new opportunities available through telemedicine and to think of how emerging technology can help them in their practice.
“I’m a big proponent of PAs thinking outside of the box,” she said. “Look at it as new ways to serve your patients.”