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Dr. Paulgun Sulur Finds Fulfillment and Balance in Telemedicine

Like hospital leaders, physicians are looking at ways they can solve challenges in care delivery while also maximizing patient outcomes.

Increasing ER throughput.

Managing hospital capacity.

Decreasing length of stay.

These challenges are at the center of hospital management, and often, high-quality hospitalists are needed to take the lead. But that need can conflict with physician shortages and other recruitment difficulties. As hospitals’ pursuit of talented hospitalists intensifies, and hospitalists themselves look for meaningful work to provide high-quality care and improve patient experiences, many like Paulgun Sulur, M.D., are taking a new look at how to reach those goals.

Today, Sulur consults with patients and hospital-based clinicians from his home office in the San Francisco Bay area. Through his work with Access Physicians, he looks after patients across the U.S, allowing him to reach more patients with a wide range of needs across a broader geography. It’s different … but better …. from what he envisioned when he imagined becoming a physician.

“When I transitioned to telemedicine, I worried I might miss the bedside interaction with patients and families,” Sulur said. “But, I found the telemedicine screen between me and my patients melts away rather quickly, and our dialogue becomes very natural. I am able to build the same kind of close, trusting relationships as if I were physically at their bedside.”

As health care evolves, and hospitals look at ways to maximize clinical quality and minimize cost inefficiencies, demand for hospitalists like Sulur grows. Hospital decision-makers realize they don’t have to sacrifice patient experience or quality by investing in telehospitalists.

Through telemedicine, any community or hospital in the nation can have access to world-class physicians at the patient’s bedside, 24/7, in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional on-call or coverage programs. 

Sulur and his Access Physicians colleagues embody the best of everything that personalized, one-on-one medical care can and should be for every patient, even those in rural locales with traditionally limited access to care.

Board-certified in internal medicine, Sulur received his medical degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine at the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He has worked as a hospitalist for Baylor Scott & White and St. David’s Healthcare in Austin, and as a primary care physician and hospice medical director for A*MED Healthcare Group. Throughout his career, Sulur has found particular satisfaction in personally interfacing with patients and families—opportunities that can be limited in large hospital settings.

Sulur was inspired to transition from hospital care at the bedside to telemedicine after seeing his wife, an endocrinologist with Access Physicians, care for patients in rural Texas – all through telemedicine. He was impressed with the sophistication and reach of the technology, which utilizes a physician-designed cart equipped with high-resolution display HD camera and remote control to pan, tilt, and zoom; HIPAA-compliant video; and a digital stethoscope. Advanced beyond any telemedicine technology he had seen previously, it creates a true face-to-face experience, helping patients fully benefit from their physician’s focused attention and personal perspective.

“But telemedicine is about much more than technology. It presents infinite opportunities to find real meaning in the care I deliver,” Sulur says. “My interactions with patients now may be even more personal than they were in a hospital setting. Not being physically in the room with the patient and family, I take extra care and attention, ask more probing questions and am more alert to potential mitigating factors. All of this leads to more insightful, superior care.”

Telemedicine has increased, rather than limited, his reach as a physician. Indeed, he covers hospitals coast to coast, concurrently caring for patients in many communities and time zones. The prevalence of certain diseases and conditions he encounters is as varied as the demographics and geography, continually presenting new challenges and learning opportunities.

Not only has Sulur’s telemedicine experience proved tremendously rewarding, it also has positively impacted his life/work balance.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my career,” he says. “Professionally, it’s enriching to be continually presented with new challenges, new perspectives and new ways of doing things. Personally, I enjoy working in the home environment and having the flexibility to be available to my family.”