Students Explore Medical Hot Topics

Thursday, July 29, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - (July 29, 2010) – Joseph Harrison and Matthew Fadus, two Saint Joseph’s University Summer Scholars, are exploring how innovations in health care – telemedicine and concierge medical care – are affecting health care consumers. Both students are engaging in hands on research with medical and legal professionals, and both studies will be submitted for publication when complete.

HarrisonHarrison, a junior interdisciplinary health major from Warrington, Pa., is researching telemedicine, which is the application of clinical medicine through the use of communicative technologies. Fadus, a junior biology major from Hampden, Mass., is researching concierge medicine. Both students have health care ethics minors, are fellows in SJU’s Institute of Catholic Bioethics and in the future, hope to attend medical school. 

To conduct their research, Harrison and Fadus were each awarded a Saint Joseph’s University’s Summer Scholars grant, which provides support for students to engage in faculty-mentored research or creative projects during the summer. Recipients receive a stipend of $3,200 and an option for reduced housing costs. Scholars are required to write about their work and present it publicly later in the school year.

Harrison and Fadus are working under the mentorship of bioethicist Peter Clark, S.J., director of the Institute of Catholic Bioethics and professor of medical ethics at Saint Joseph’s. “Both students are exploring highly relevant bioethical issues,” says Fr. Clark. “As their mentor, I have enjoyed seeing them tackle difficult medical issues, struggle with them, examine strengths and weaknesses and then develop their own ethical positions. Joe and Matt will be excellent physicians and researchers as well as ethical scholars, which will be in the best interest of their future patients.”

Harrison’s research project, Telemedicine: Medical, Legal and Ethical Implications, explores the positive and negative effects of clinical care when it relies on telephone, computer or video sharing devices for physician-patient consultations, medical procedures and examinations. 

“My biggest push is to analyze how telemedicine will affect the doctor-patient relationship,” says Harrison. “Much of my concern revolves around how technology can remove the face-to-face interactions that drive patient care. On the other hand, the availability of medical treatment has never been as far reaching as it is with the aid of telemedicine. People in rural communities who go to urban medical centers can now be seen by a doctor via video-based consultations.”

Mercy Home Health in Philadelphia, Pa., and AtlantiCare of New Jersey have given Harrison permission to monitor their telemedical applications. Harrison says his research will analyze how telemedicine is evolving, and as a result, how patients and physicians are changing. He is also assessing legal implications, such as liability and privacy. Fr. Clark will contribute to the ethical component of the research, and Charles Nguyen, M.D., a second-year resident at Mercy Suburban Hospital, will work with Harrison on the medical content.

“There are issues of confidentiality and privacy that must be examined both legally and ethically to protect the rights of patients,” says Fr. Clark.

FadusFadus’s project, titled A Medical, Legal and Ethical Analysis of Concierge Medicine, explores the history and pros and cons of concierge medical care. Supporters emphasize the exceptional care physicians can offer within an overloaded health care system. Conversely, according to Fadus, detractors believe it will create steep expenses for patients, could draw some physicians out of mainstream health care and leave some patients feeling abandoned if their physician becomes engaged in this type of practice.

Fadus became interested in the topic when he volunteered at Health Care for the Homeless in Springfield, Mass. “There are huge differences in the quality of care that people of different economic statuses receive,” says Fadus. “I hope to learn more about the economics of the industry, as well as the ethical issues associated with concierge medical care,” says Fadus, who is researching concierge medical practices in Boston, Mass., and New Hope, Pa.

Fr. Clark will write about the ethics of concierge medicine. Jill Friedman, M.D., family practice resident at Mercy Suburban Hospital in East Norriton, Pa., is writing about the adverse aspects. Also working with Fadus is attorney David Crosson, who will focus on legal issues.

Background: Founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University advances the professional and personal ambitions of men and women by providing a demanding, yet supportive, educational experience. One of only 139 schools with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and AACSB business school accreditation, Saint Joseph's is home to 4,200 full-time undergraduates and 3,100 graduate, part-time and doctoral students. Steeped in the 450-year Jesuit tradition of scholarship and service, Saint Joseph's was named to the 2009 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for General Community Service. The University strives to be recognized as the preeminent Catholic comprehensive university in the Northeast.

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