Doctor says his late-career telehealth fellowship gave him a renewed sense of purpose

Male doctor in white lab coat
Many doctors nearing retirement age are hesitant to give up their careers, surveys show. (Getty/Saklakova)

Healthcare is moving in a far more technological direction, and for one physician with nearly 40 years of practice under his belt, that meant it was time for some additional training. 

Many late-career physicians are hesitant to hang up their stethoscopes and are looking to stay involved in healthcare practice. Keeping older doctors engaged and involved in healthcare could help mitigate the physician shortage, which is expected to reach significant numbers as baby boomers reach retirement age. 

However, a notable number of these doctors (38%) are concerned with staying competitive as the healthcare industry evolves.

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Daniel Halpren-Ruder, M.D., a Philadelphia-based emergency physician, writes in a column for NEJM Catalyst that he chose to enter into a late-career telemedicine fellowship to ensure he could remain active in medicine into his 70s. He was the first fellow in telemedicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, starting in the summer of 2016. 

Halpren-Ruder explored whether telehealth, which has been shown to decrease costs and improve communication with patients and between clinicians, can also improve quality and outcomes.  

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In addition to conducting valuable research, Halpren-Ruder said the fellowship injected a much-needed jolt of purpose into his medical career. 

"I found what I needed: a piece of the future, a new horizon that offers me purpose and flexibility," he said. "Telehealth will allow me to stay thoroughly engaged in medicine without the minute-to-minute productivity of emergency medicine that requires energy I could not count on for the future." 

Telemedicine and other technological advances have shown particular promise in rural areas. A number of new apps and programs are making it easier for independent doctors to offer virtual visits, even if they don't have the ability to build a far-reaching infrastructure for telehealth.