Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 136 | March 22, 2021
Substance Abuse and Healthcare Workers
Steven Wolt and Dr. Michel Sucher
CEO and Chief Medical Advisor of Veritus
Hello and welcome to Difficult Conversations -Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Today I have two great guests to talk about something that affects all of us: drug and alcohol addiction among healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses. We all know it exists, but it’s something no one ever wants to talk about. Today, I have Steven Wolt, CEO and Co-Founder of Veritus, whose personal journey as an executive in corporate America with a substance use disorder and his story of recovery is the reason he created Veritus. I also have Dr. Michel Sucher, Chief Medical Advisor of Veritus, who has been practicing addiction medicine for over 30 years and regarded nationally as a pioneer and foremost industry expert in alcohol and drug monitoring and after care programs. Veritus offers virtual substance abuse and trauma treatment programs exclusively for licensed medical professionals. Keep listening to hear more about the incredible things they are doing to help with this problem. As always, Dr. Orsini keeps his promise about two things, that you will feel inspired, and you will have learned valuable lessons to be a better and more compassionate communicator.
Steven shares his journey with drug addiction, his recovery, and how he became the CEO of Veritus. Dr. Sucher explains how prevalent addiction is among physicians and nurses, and the recent spike in physician burnout, suicide, and depression due to COVID. We find out why doctors and nurses start getting addicted to drugs. Many doctors find it helps with their emotional pain. We also learn why the Veritus approach works and how they help people by supporting and encouraging them to get help early. Dr. Sucher educates explains the laws that protect doctors from losing privileges. Steven tells us why he would not use the resources provided by his employers when he was going through his addiction, and about the uphill battle that goes on right now with people that are suffering and needing treatment.
Steven shares his advice on having that first conversation with someone after realizing you have a problem, being in denial, and saying, “Me too.” Dr. Sucher explains what he tells the people that think they are Superman and stresses how Veritus tries to get early recognition, early intervention, and early treatment to prevent consequences. Steven explains how Veritus does virtual treatments and the encouraging data that came out recently showing how it compares to in-person treatment, and Dr Sucher shares one other amazing finding about tele-health. Steven walks us through the process from making the first call to Veritus saying you need help, and he explains the program they offer called the Intensive Outpatient Program. If you enjoyed this podcast, please hit the subscribe button, and download all the previous episodes to find out more about what we do and how we teach communication.
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Dr. Sucher (1s):
To be a good physician, you have to be compulsive. You have to pay attention to detail or deal with human lives and wellbeing. We don’t want to make mistakes that the other side of compulsivity in a sense, compulsivity gone wild is the essence of addiction. It’s a continued doing of something in spite of negative consequences. So the very trait that makes us good Physicians also sets us up for addiction.
Welcome to Difficult Conversations: Lessons I learned as an ICU physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Dr. Orsini is a practicing physician and president and CEO of the Orsini Way. As a frequent keynote speaker and author, Dr. Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders how to navigate through the most difficult dialogues. Each week you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field who tell their story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate. Whether you are a doctor faced with giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the most out of his or her team members or someone who just wants to learn to communicate better this is the podcast for you.
Announcer (1m 12s):
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 13s):
Well, welcome to another episode of Difficult Conversations Lessons I learned as an ICU Physician. This is Dr. Anthony Orsini, and I’ll be your host again this week. Well, today I am twice blessed because I have with me two great guests. We are going to talk about something that really affects us all, and that is drug and alcohol addiction among healthcare providers, such as doctors and nurses. It’s one of those things we all know probably exists, but something that no one really wants to talk about. Along with suicide and depression, drug use among physicians is not only hidden and kept quiet, but until these two gentlemen came together, it was extremely difficult to treat. My two guests today are Steven Wolt and Dr.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 55s):
Michel Sucher from Veritus. Veritus offers virtual substance abuse and trauma treatment programs exclusively for licensed medical professionals. And we’re going to learn more about the incredible things that they’re doing to help with this problem, which I think are real game changers in just a moment. But first I wanted to introduce them. Stephen Wolt is the CEO and co-founder of Veritus his personal journey as an executive in corporate America with a substance use disorder. And his recovery was the reason he created Veritus. Years of struggling to manage a career and his own treatment and recovery made him realize that additional treatment resources were needed for executives to are highly functional in the workplace.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 39s):
His goal was to bring together industry leaders in clinical treatment, executive coaching and healthcare coordination to create a virtual outpatient treatment program, specifically designed to meet the needs of the medical and legal communities. Next we have Dr. Michel Sucher, the Veritus chief medical advisor. For over 30 years Dr. Sucher has been practicing addiction medicine, he is regarded nationally as a pioneer and foremost industry expert in alcohol and drug monitoring in aftercare programs. He had served as the medical director of the monitored aftercare programs for the Arizona medical board, the Arizona state board have dental examiners in the state bar of Arizona.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 21s):
He was also the president of the California Physicians health program, and most recently the chief medical director for community bridges, which is a substance abuse and mental health treatment program in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Sucher is a fellow of the American college of emergency physicians and a fellow of the American society of addiction medicine. He is the past president of the Arizona society of addiction medicine and has a nationally known speaker on addiction medicine and professional health issues. Well, gentlemen, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here today. This is truly an honor to have you, and this is a topic that people need to hear about. So I’m really glad that you’re here to share with my audience.
Steven Wolt/Dr. Sucher (4m 4s):
Thank you for having us. Yes, Thanks for having us.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 8s):
And it’s really great to speak to you both about and extremely important topic. And as I said in my intro, it’s a topic that no one really wants to speak about the premise of this podcast. And really my work for the last 20 years is that every important moment in our lives involves a difficult conversation. And if you navigate correctly through that, you can really help someone and help yourself. And each week goes by no matter who I’m interviewing the same things, keep coming up and trust, good communication, commonality, and most importantly relationships. And the one topic that seems to be recurring over and over again is a physician and nursing burnout. And it’s, without a question causing a major health care crisis.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 51s):
Physician’s have the highest rate of suicide of any profession. And depression is at an all time high. And we have explored the many reasons for those statistics on previous podcasts. But today we’re talking about something really important and that’s drug and alcohol use in Physicians. And so the Steven during the teaching of my communication, I tell everybody how important it is before you build trust you first have to first be a genuine person. You have to let people in and let them know you. So maybe we can start off with Steven and then just tell us your journey on how you came to be to CEO Veritus and you know, just a little bit about yourself, so we can start thinking of you and start trusting you and, and this will
Steven Wolt (5m 32s):
Well, thank you for having us on the show and I have become a big fan of your podcast. I listened to it after work on the drive home. So a great job you routinely bring on good guest.s So I hope Dr. Sucher an I will keep that time going, but we recently launched Veritas, which is a virtual substance abuse treatment program for licensed medical professionals that are struggling with alcohol, drugs, and trauma, and were really excited about having that product and market and the journey to get to this point has been a pretty incredible from my perspective. So I am a New Yorker and from the Northeast, similar to you and early in my twenties, I was a quite a successful business man.
Steven Wolt (6m 12s):
I had to put in executive benefits at law firms in hospital systems, and it was really successful early in my career, and which is wonderful in many ways and really challenging. In other ways, but you know, 2004, I started developing a very significant cocaine addiction. And over a four year period of time, I destroyed my life. I had built this really big business. I had a great stellar reputation and that community, I was on boards of nonprofits. I was actively involved in a country club and we were over a four year period of time there was a progression of this cocaine addiction that almost killed me. And then when I look back at that period of time and just how dark and scary it had gotten, it’s really not even sad that I’m here today and so I’m so grateful to be healthy and to be here and happy today.
Steven Wolt (7m 2s):
And then to have survived. I have so much respect for the disease of addiction, it kind of robbed me of everything and destroyed my family. Everything in its wake, it was catastrophic. In 2007, 2008, I started going through what I call the great rehab tour. We were very, I joke around all the time when you see someone with a rock and roll t-shirt, a wall of the city’s that the band visits, those are all of the treatment centers that Steve went to. In those years, I was gone to the best places that money could buy and really unsuccessful. I had a desire to stay sober. I was wanting to put resources and time to go away and get the help. I went around the country in search of that help, but I leave these treatment programs And within a month I’ll be back in a hotel or I’m doing cocaine again and acting out in ways that were really painful.
Steven Wolt (7m 52s):
So i had really reached a point in my life where I was backed into a corner and all of that to become suicidal, that I was seeking the best treatment I thought that was available to me that I couldn’t stay sober. And I was in a lot of pain, 2009. I found a treatment program in Hattiesburg, Mississippi called Pine Grove and Gentle Path. And they dealt with childhood trauma. And I actually was there for three months. And, but that was the turning point in my life. I have such profound respect for people that are in this business because it’s really hard work. And without that organization, the work I did there dealing with my childhood, I probably wouldn’t be here today.
Steven Wolt (8m 32s):
So I had an immense amount of respect, people that specialize in childhood abuse, drug addiction, sex addiction, and all of the things that are a result of problematic childhoods. Like the one I had, I went out to Los Angeles and I got back to my old career . I launched a firm in Beverly Hills back in my old industry, but several years ago just hit a wall. I find myself not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. I had just lost the zest to work. I think the healthier I’ve got personally, the less I wanted to do what I was doing for a living and had lost purpose and meaning. And so I started thinking about my journey as an executive in corporate America with a pretty significant mental health issue.
Steven Wolt (9m 15s):
And I started realizing that there were certain things that just kind of stood out to me, what it stood out to me. It was just how difficult it is to talk about this topic in the workplace and not being a doctor just in corporate America with a significant mental health issue, you know, living in the shadows. So scared talk about that. So I, I just found that to be such a big issue. I also found that this country had these incredible clinical resources where, I could go away over a period of time and then reenter my life. I had a career that was complicated at a personal life that was complicated. And I just felt that the resources to navigate my career in early recovery and navigate my entry back into my life were kind of lacking in the recovery community.
Steven Wolt (10m 3s):
I kind of felt that we tried to treat addiction in this country like you’ve been in a car accident, not like you have diabetes. And so I started thinking about what could I add it to my experience that would have helped me in my journey with addiction. And lastly, you’ll see why I say this in a second before COVID this was a pretty profound comment. I just found that it was so freaking inconvenient to live in New York and the live in Los Angeles and try to patient or a client in an outpatient treatment facility. It would take you an hour to commute, back and forth. I’d walk into a building where I could see my neighbor walking into another place and I’m walking into this treatment program.
Steven Wolt (10m 45s):
And it just, it didn’t sit well with me. I just found it to be so inefficient and just lack privacy. So I started thinking about what maybe I’d like to do something in this space based on these experiences. And I have known Bob Miller, who’s the chairman of board or freedom Institute, which are the large nonprofit in New York city that it since 1976 has been in the outpatient treatment business in Midtown Manhattan and Bob and I just started talking about some of these thoughts I had and some of these experience I had, and I think they would just open to an outsider’s perspective. I was not from the industry. I was not from the field. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a clinician. I’m a drug addict in recovery who was a pretty significant executive at some point in time.
Steven Wolt (11m 26s):
I just felt that things could be done better. Due to a set of circumstances we’ve got to meet Dr. Michel Sucher. Who’s like the guru in the space when dealing with executives and professionals that have substance use disorders. And, you know, the freedom has to have by Miller, Dr. Sucher and I over the last few years to start to collaborate and what we really want you to create pre COVID by the way, we really wanted to create a treatment programs specifically designed for the medical community. It’s specifically designed for the legal community and do so on a virtual platform where we can literally take the in-person treatment experience that freeness who has been doing for decades, combine that with Dr.
Steven Wolt (12m 8s):
Sucher’s as experience, having one physician health programs for decades, bring the two together and create programming, specific to meet the needs of medical professionals in the legal community. COVID hit we decided to put more resources forward and dealing with the medical professionals that we’re in the market today, helping people. So it’s been an amazing journey.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (12m 30s):
Okay. That is an amazing journey. And I’m so glad that you are doing such good things and really you are giving back in so many ways. I think one of the things you take home from that story is the stereotype, that people who are addicted to drugs are lower socioeconomic people who are poor. When actually, as you said, you are a very high performing businessman, and now you’re helping doctors and lawyers and other professional people, but the drug addiction knows no boundaries and that you can be poor or rich are male or female are black and white. But I think that the stigma of a physician being addicted to drugs is really something that no one wants to talk about.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (13m 10s):
So Dr. Sucher, how prevalent it is an addiction among physicians. And I don’t know, do you deal with nurses also? How prevalent is it?
Dr. Sucher (13m 17s):
Well, Yes. Dr. Orsini I do deal with nurses as well, but primarily physicians, dentists executives, most people would tell you that 10 to 12% of the population will deal with the substance use disorder at some point in their life. I’m certain than most literature I’d looked at. And my experience shows me that physicians are at least at that level and probably higher. I have heard estimates up to 18% at some point in their career. And some of that is for a number of reasons. To be a good physician you have to be compulsive. You have to pay attention to detail. We are dealing with human lives and wellbeing. We don’t want to make mistakes, but the other side of compulsivity in a sense, compulsivity gone wild is the essence of addiction.
Dr. Sucher (14m 7s):
It’s a continued doing something in spite of negative consequences. So the very trait that makes us good physicians also sets us up for an addiction. Secondly, we have access to virtually every drug known to man and legal and illegal, and we usually have the money to buy them. And we have enablers. We have family who are invested and are continuing working employees and office staff and colleagues who are invested in often will without realizing it, cover up the disease until it regresses to a point where that’s, you know, not possible to do any longer.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (14m 42s):
But the issue of burnout I mentioned in the intro is so high in medicine right now, but we had Dr. Dike Drummond on who literally wrote the book on physician burnout, and we’ve had a couple other guests and that theme just keeps coming up as COVID has definitely made burnout worse. And there’s various reasons for burnout. So are you seeing a spike in this right now?
Dr. Sucher (15m 4s):
I think we are all of the things that you mentioned earlier, increased suicide, increased depression, burnout, which has been really prevalent in the health professions for quite a long time, has really kind of spiked. And in a lot of ways, burn-out is the precursor to addiction and mental health issues, depression and suicide. So part of the goal is if you can identify and intervene on a burning out physician earlier, there are more likely to prevent the development of an actual disease state and able to restore the person to help by providing support and a structure and resources to help them do that.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (15m 44s):
Yeah, I think you described a whirlwind that we live in as a physician. I can certainly relate to that. I’m 56 years old now, and I’m still doing the night shifts in a hospital and I deal with the sickest of the sick newborns. And I can certainly relate to trying to get to sleep at 11 o’clock at night, if you have a shift to the next day, but you’re still wound up from your last shift. And so I don’t know what it’s like to be thankfully to be a drug user. And it’s, that never happened to me, but I certainly could understand that maybe you start off by taking something to help you sleep or say you can take something to help you get through the shift. Is that generally how it starts?
Dr. Sucher (16m 22s):
Typically? Yes. In a sense, I’ve never met a single individual Physician or otherwise who wanted to become addicted to drugs, people start for a host of reasons, but to help them sleep, particularly after night shift, to deal with anxiety and stress, to deal with pain, even a legitimate physical pain. And then so many doctors find that it helps with their emotional pain too. And that’s how it kind of goes off track anesthesia, which is a very high risk specialty for substance use disorders among physicians are there sort of experts at pharmacology and they feel they know how to titrate these things. And the number that I’ve seen injecting fentanyl ,propofol, versed to manage their mood, manage their sleep the numbers are staggering.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (17m 11s):
It’s a very high stress job. I agree with that, Steven, last time, I guess this can be there for you or Dr. Sucher last time we spoke, we talked about why the Veritus approach works and Dr. Sucher, maybe you could comment on this. So every time I fill out, I have to renew my license every two years, or I have to get privileges at a new hospital. The questions I have to answer it the same 10 or 20 questions. Right. And one question is, have you ever used drugs or alcohol, or have you ever been addicted to drugs or alcohol? Is it a special problem that there is a bunch of doctors out there that maybe are having that conversation with themselves that I need help, but are afraid to do so
Dr. Sucher (17m 49s):
Well, most are very afraid of the stigma, and they typically don’t answer truthfully to questions on a medical board renewal or a hospital medical staff renewal. Most of the time, now we go through the Federation of state physician health programs, working with medical boards to ask questions that are less stigmatizing, less invasive things like do you currently have a condition which impairs your ability to practice their profession which can be medical or psychiatric or a substance use disorder but to try and make the question not have you ever or not? Have you ever seen a psychiatrist or things like that?
Dr. Sucher (18m 32s):
That would be very fear producing and very stigmatizing. We don’t want to do that. We want to provide support and encourage people to get help and get help early. I think one of the things, the whole notion of Veritus is, is to be able to intervene on and help treat people before they end up in front of the medical board or a medical executive committee or heads of their medical group for some serious consequences.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (18m 58s):
And please educate me because I don’t know this. So I’m sure that there’s a bunch of people out there that are listening right now that maybe are having a conversation with themselves. They are afraid to say something that no matter how you word that question, they’re getting ready to check yes. And their afraid am I gonna lose my privileges? Please educate us. What does the law is say for that position at, or a nurse who, or a lawyer who may need some help? Are they being protected? If they say yes?
Dr. Sucher (19m 26s):
Well, the trouble is you don’t know. And every state in every hospital that, you know, every credentials and executive committee are probably different. And it also depends on who’s looking at it. Physician health programs, which exist in almost every state are typically advocacy oriented. Most of them have confidentiality. If you seek help from them before being ordered to go by a licensing board or something like that and they can be a resource. And I’ve operated the Arizona program for over 25 years, I do this kind of work in Nevada and have done it in California. And I’ve always said, please call me up, say your name is John or Jane Doe.
Dr. Sucher (20m 6s):
I’ll be happy to help guide you and answer questions because they’re all afraid. They’re all afraid. And I can imagine Steven, that was what you were going through too, when you’re up high performing executive, I would imagine that it was something that you really tried to keep it as quiet as possible.
Steven Wolt (20m 26s):
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true not being a physician when they take it to this whole other level, but I’ll tell you what I would never do and just use the resources provided by my employer. Right? So a sophisticated as employment benefit package and or EAPs. I mean, there, wasn’t a chance I would use any of those resources for fear of the consequences for doing so. And it’s interesting as we are, as I get to spend more time in this space and really trying to understand how can we best be of service to this community. It is an uphill battle because as we need to look at the market right now, there is the market for those that have been mandated to treatment where a physician monitoring program and employee, where in the gigs up, he got caught, right?
Steven Wolt (21m 14s):
Your licensed is at risk, but we, we want you to receive and get good quality treatment, allowing you to continue to practice medicine. There’s that market. And we believe that a virtual treatment program can allow for a few other things that can allow you to access care a lot easier to call out for you to continue to work and remain in a home, which is critically important for the right person. And we can deliver care at a fraction of the cost. So telehealth allows you to do that in a way that has never been done before. But unfortunately that’s such a small part of the market. The person that has been caught there is this massive untapped market of medical professionals that are out there today that are suffering.
Steven Wolt (21m 57s):
That no matter what you say or do or not going to seek out any form of treatment. So we’ve been spending quite a bit of time trying to think about less stigmatized solutions to meet people where they are and the realities, finding ways to deliver a coaching services and coaching programs to physicians and nurses. That’s not a clinical treatment really from that part of a market where people are voluntarily seeking out help, if something is still under development, that we are really excited about it as well. But I think it’s really for anybody that’s listening right now as a treatment provider, right? We are not mandated to report you to any type of medical board.
Steven Wolt (22m 38s):
If you are voluntarily seeking out treatment nor is any physician that in the treatment program with you mandated to report you to a medical board, really important to get that point across.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (22m 50s):
That is really important. I want to ask you the topic of this podcast is Difficult Conversations. Dr. Sucher knows is so just by the very nature of being a physician, we are an odd type. What are the guys that didn’t get maybe go out on a Friday and Saturday night? Cause I had a test on Tuesday and then when I was dating my wife in college, she said, are we going out Friday night and I said I have have a test Tuesday? And she just laughed. And I said, well, I need to get an A, if I get a B God forbid, so we’re high strung. And then the, by the very nature of saying I’m willing to put someone’s life in my hand. So we walk around like with a big S on our chest or Superman and sooner or later, there’s a doctor out there who’s starting to realize he has some problems.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (23m 35s):
I guess my question was for Steven. So the first time you realize you had a problem, what do you say to that doctor? There is a conversation that goes on with your self that says I have a problem because I would imagine your first in denial, how does that conversation go? Maybe you could help somebody with that.
Steven Wolt (23m 55s):
But it’s fascinating. The one thing that I find that is so helpful is when I say you need to, I’m not a doctor, I’m not going to lecture you. And I’m a recovering drug addict. You know, I happen to be CEO of this organization, but at the end of the day, when it boils down to it, I know exactly where you have a been. And I totally understand how you’re feeling right now. And there is no judgment, no one of the beautiful things about alcoholics anonymous, which is separate from what we do. And it’s really important part of my life, one alcoholic talking to another alcoholic, magic happens. And so when you have the ability to, to talk to a physician or someone that is struggling with just the ability of someone has heard my story, hopefully someone listens to this podcast and just, it feels a little bit safer to just open it up and have a conversation.
Steven Wolt (24m 48s):
That’s why I tell the story. And I think about the role that I can play right now. And for some reason I survived an insane one with a drug addiction. And I just think about my purpose today, and to continue to try to break down barriers, talking about my story so that perhaps there’s someone listening right now, and I feel safe enough to pick up the phone and call me. And I just feel like that’s my purpose today. And that’s how to answer that question.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (25m 16s):
I’m watching your face. So the audience can’t see because this is audio only, but I’m watching your face. And I can see the passion that you have. And there was nothing more magical than when someone feels a passion to help somebody because they have been there. And so I wish my audience could see your body language right now, but I could hear it in your voice. Dr. Swisher, what about that? S on the chest, what do you tell those people who think they are Superman like me?
Dr. Sucher (25m 42s):
We all do, well denial and minimizing are kind of a universal in substance use disorders. Most of the physicians that I ended up coming in contact with deep down, they know they have a problem and they’re really looking for help and guidance and a way through the fear. The good news is that most physicians are able to get a good treatment, have structured accountable, supportive monitoring, and they do well. Most of the peer reviewed literature, as well as my own experience. 85 to 95% of physicians in five years later are still clean and sober are back to work, families, career, everything in tact.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (26m 23s):
That’s a great stat.
Dr. Sucher (26m 27s):
And if you can look, if you can help us and again, help early. And I also medicalize it earlier, are you diagnose diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, or cancer, more likely it is that you will have a good outcome and all the same is true with a substance use disorder. But I think that’s really a key part of what Veritus trying to do is to early recognition, early intervention, early treatment, to prevent those consequences. I can count on less than two hands the number of physicians who have lost their medical license in the last 25 years. You have to really be a resistant and non-compliant and stay in denial to get revoked is really hard.
Dr. Sucher (27m 8s):
It’s kind of like getting into medical school is really tough once you get in, it’s really hard to not get through it. If you do the work, the same is true here and there. But if you got there, you would probably do really well.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (27m 21s):
But that’s a great stat to know. So for those people that are out there that are worried that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, the internet access right now in everybody has all of these people put stuff up on social media. I think you’ve mentioned Stephen, that the Veritus is, is strictly confidential. So right now you can find out if I got a speeding ticket six years ago, right? If you look up my name, but this is all confidential, I would assume in for those people out there that are afraid it’s going to come out.
Steven Wolt (27m 51s):
It’s all confidential and critically important that this compassionate type care has done confidential this as a safe place. But you know what I mean? It’s also a really interesting then when Dr. Sucher and I, and Bob Miller and freedom Institute were really designing these programs pre COVID. We are talking about the ability to do this virtually and people would look at us and they would turn and look like, you know when a dog looks confused, they turn their head to the side, looks saying what? and what’s fascinating now because of COVID in the entire treatment field, went to some version of tele-health. So literally we thought it would take three to five years took three to five months.
Steven Wolt (28m 32s):
And here’s what the data is coming back at. So we’re a year into this right now. So a lot of the big treatment centers, the Betty Ford clinic, the Mayo clinic, started publishing white papers the Freedom Institute has a white paper coming out, sharing the data over the past year, a virtual treatment as it compares to in-person treatment. And here’s what the data suggests.Number one, you have patients like it and clinicians like It, higher patient engagement and about the same rates of recovery. So it’s a fascinating piece of information that we are now having some real data to support that these virtual platforms work and they’re here to stay in the post COVID world.
Dr. Sucher (29m 18s):
The one other finding is with tele-health is patients are more willing to reveal and to be vulnerable than they are in person. That extra barrier has been helpful in addition to everything that Steven said, which is absolutely true. That’s another added benefit too, a telemedicine and virtual treatment and other things, just a having done this a long time when I started doing this, no matter how low your of severity, If you are going to a 30 to 90 days have residential treatment. And its only in the last five to seven years that we started to see if you look there’s varying degrees of substance use disorders, mild, moderate, severe, and that the mild and maybe early matter to deal with Outpatient and now with the COVID as well as to what we’ve put together, the idea of virtual treatment is absolutely real.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 11s):
You guys were way ahead of the curve. Just to finish off here, walk me through the process how someone out there listening physician, lawyer, because you do attorneys too. Right?
Dr. Sucher (30m 22s):
Right now we’re in the market with a medical program later this year we’ll have our own lawyer program in March.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 29s):
So someone, I guess they call you and they say, Hey Steve or Dr. Sucher I’m not sure I need some help. And then what happens from that point on just take me through the steps?
Steven Wolt (30m 37s):
Well, we are quite often what the, the first phone call comes from more often than not the person who’s referring them to treatment. So it could very well be a, a state monitoring program. It could be an employer, it could be a psychiatrist or psychologist that’s working with a medical professional that needs a higher level of help. One of the things that we’re starting to notice right now that with COVID right now, these frontline providers that are, have experienced significant PTSD and trauma. And there’s a lag between when you experienced trauma and when you start to see a spike in substance abuse, we’re starting to get to that point. So part of our programming is taking some of these trauma modalities and being able to do them virtually.
2 (31m 24s):
So it’s typically quite often the referral that’s calling to us, giving us some specifics about what exactly is going on learning about the type of programs we offer and whether it’s an appropriate fit. Now, once in a while, we’ll get a phone call from the end user. That’s not kind of a premeditated from some types of outside source. We are, will walk them through the program, but at any given situation, someone is going through an assessment, which is about a two hour conversation. It goes on between multiple clinicians and the patient, which is kind of fact finding, fact gathering to find out exactly what’s going on to make sure that this is an appropriate fit because we’re a virtual platform.
Steven Wolt (32m 4s):
Sometimes professionals will need a higher level of care. We also want to ascertain their willingness to get help, right? That comes out in the conversation as well to determine the number one, if, if this is appropriate for you,
Dr. Anthony Orsini (32m 15s):
They want me to interrupting. So this person that takes the intake, are they Physicians, are they counselors? Who was the first person they were speaking to?
Steven Wolt (32m 22s):
The first person you are speaking to is a clinician. And the clinician that we work with at all on our team who have significant experienced significant mental health experience had master’s degrees and have a significant experience working with the physicians and health care providers.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (32m 38s):
Okay. All right. So after you have the intake and it’s a fit, you assigned them a counselor and how does that go?
Steven Wolt (32m 45s):
And then that we have in market right now is something called an intensive outpatient program. So it’s a three month program. So it’s 12 weeks in When, and I would say a very intensive program. So it consists of 10 hours of clinical treatment a week. So there are three, three hour groups each week and the groups are a process with one of the groups is co-facilitated by Dr. Sucher where they have a platform for us to really, for medical professionals and physicians to talk about the issues that are specific to them having a medical license, what do you disclose or they don’t disclose to a patient to an employer. What do you do about being around medications in the workplace, things around that nature.
2 (33m 28s):
It’s also, we’re a DBT based program. That’s a type of treatment modality that we use. It teaches skills and in real time to deal with emotions and feelings. And we just brought on someone to teach guided meditation. So really fascinated, you know, mindfulness is one of the DBT skills and we want to teach medical professional’s how to meditate. That’s what we think that is critically important as well. And the other thing that’s really unique about our program is, is that we incorporate coaching into the program as well. So this clinical treatment, and then in addition to that, there was a weekly meeting with a physician coach, which is really gives you the opportunity to work with a colleague for peer support, but also to help navigate the intricacies of being a health care provider today in today’s day and age.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 16s):
Yeah. And mindfulness and meditation is something that we have Dr. Jonathan Fisher or shout out to him. Who’s had a great interview who talked about how mindfulness and meditation really saved him from major depression. And now he teaches it and it does some great things.
Steven Wolt (34m 31s):
By the way, I like the connection towards you because I listened to that interview. And, and you said you can meditate for 15 seconds. So I was like, wow, that’s my type of guy.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 41s):
Well, I think I said five seconds, but I’d been working on it. And I joked that. I think my add the great thing about that episode is I said, Johnathan, I think I call it the last five seconds. And he said, that’s a long time, I guess it takes time to get there. But I’m learning how to try to do that in Jonathan’s has been helping me with that. Doctor Sucher here with this program is there a point where someone, you may have to refer someone to inpatient or so far that’s been pretty successful?
Dr. Sucher (35m 8s):
Yeah. I think we have done a really good job of screening of people and referring them to a higher level of care on the front end, but sure, like you have any medical conditions, more information or in the course of treatment to say that more severe than we thought and that they may need a higher level of care. And we certainly have the ability to do that. And I have a network of a residential programs around the country that I’ve referred people to for years to understand health professionals.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (35m 40s):
Well thank you. That is really a great conversation that we just had a bout a very difficult topic, something, as I said in the interview, people don’t want to speak about. But I think that one of the things that I love about this podcast is that I learn every single week from someone. And also I think on providing a service or if there’s one person out there who has a concern about a colleague or a friend, or maybe it’s themselves, this as an option that maybe not everybody knows about. So I think you guys are way ahead of the curve on this. I’m certainly nowhere near an expert on this topic, but I’ve learned that awful lot. And what’s the best way for someone out there to get in touch with Veritus.
Steven Wolt (36m 17s):
There are multiple ways you can visit us at our website at www.Veritussolutions.com. Another way to meet us as we just launched a free CME webinars series for those doctors that are on this, listen to this podcast, they can participate and get continuing education webinar credits that’s on March 9th at 12:30 PM Eastern standard time. We have an incredible group of thought leaders. Dr. Sucher being one of them are talking about a roadmap beyond the pandemic. We would think about what the future has in store and working with medical professionals with mental health in what we’ve learned during COVID. So that’s another great way to meet the team as well.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (36m 58s):
Well, and they can sign up for that webinar through your website. Correct. That’s fantastic. So thank you, gentlemen. This has been a really very educational, very inspiring Steven. Your story is inspiring and thank you for giving back. This was such an important topic, so thank you again for your time. I really appreciate it.d
Dr. Sucher (37m 19s):
Absolute pleasure. Absolute pleasure.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (37m 19s):
If you enjoyed this podcast, please go ahead and hit subscribe and download all the previous episodes that we spoke about. All the contact information will be on the show notes and you can get in touch with me through my website, The OrsiniWay.Com or DrOrsini@the OrsiniWay.com. That’s Dr. Orsini@ the Orsini Way.com. So thank you gentlemen, have a great day.
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Dr. Anthony Orsini
Dr. Michel Sucher
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It’s All In The Delivery: Improving Healthcare Starting With A Single Conversation by Dr. Anthony Orsini