Getting Started in Telemedicine: A Guide for Physicians

Curious About a Career in Telemedicine?

Follow These Telemedicine Best Practices to Get Started!

As more and more healthcare systems seek to streamline operations and reduce costs, the telemedicine market’s popularity has exploded – and it’s showing no signs of stopping. In fact, recent research by Global Market Insights, Inc. predicts that the US telemedicine market will exceed a staggering $64.1 billion by 2025!

As you can imagine, the rapid expansion of this tech-based healthcare alternative has led many physicians to consider a future in telemedicine. But for some healthcare providers, the hardest part of the entire telemedicine experience is simply getting started. That’s why we put together this list of telemedicine guidelines for physicians to follow while getting started in the market.

Let’s dive in!

What to do before seeking out telemedicine work.

Conduct research on your state’s telemedicine laws and regulations.

While most reputable telemedicine companies have researched the telemedicine laws in all 50 states, it is not a bad idea for you to be aware of the state laws regarding telemedicine in states where you hold licenses of plan to get licensed. As you might expect, telemedicine laws and regulations vary subtly from state to state, and these variations can affect physicians and patients alike.

The payment policies and practices of different insurance companies also vary, but it may not matter, since you will be paid by the telemedicine service provider on a per-patient or hourly rate basis. Here is a link to an article that does address reimbursement for telehealth: Public Health Institute’s page on State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Program Policies is a great place to start your research.

Overhead view of a physician's hands typing on his laptop

While the Public Health Institute provides a great starting point for research, you’ll definitely want to dive in as deeply as possible to find out what telemedicine laws dictate your own state. After several days on Google, you should have a solid idea of what your state medical board requires regarding major consideration such as:

  • Whether you’re able to write prescriptions through a telemedicine visit.
  • Whether you need a patient’s consent to conduct your telemedicine services (and whether or not that consent needs to be written or verbal).

These are just some of the issues you’ll want to address before diving into the telemedicine field. State telemedicine laws can be hard to keep up with, and you certainly don’t want to run afoul with any state medical boards or get into any legal trouble – so take as much time as you need before deciding if telemedicine will work for you!

Get a high-quality webcam.

As you explore telemedicine opportunities, you will find that visits are conducted via audio (telephone), video and asynchronous (store and forward), or any combination of the aforementioned. To be sure you are a viable candidate, it is important that either your desktop or laptop computer is equipped with a solid webcam. In fact, as you research telemedicine laws, you may find that some states do, in fact, require a video visit.

Close-up shot of a black webcam facing the camera

There are a number of high-quality webcams available for telemedicine conferencing and video calling in general, but here are a few high-rated recommendations from Amazon. Thanks to modern technology, you don’t need to break the bank for a high-performance webcam; all these options are under $100, yet are still more than capable of offering superior image quality (and with stellar customer reviews, too!).

Ensure Appropriate Internet Connectivity.

In addition to your new high-quality webcam, you’ll also need a strong internet connection – but how much bandwidth is enough? Numbers will vary based on your source, but for simple video calling, aim for at least 1mps (megabits per second) for HD video, bit ideally, you’ll want more than 20mps considering how speeds can be affected by lots of different factors.

You can learn more about the fundamentals of bandwidth, megabits, and kilobits here, as well as how to find out whether or not your current internet connection is strong enough for video calls with virtual patients (and also note that the same requirements will go for your patients!). Also, keep in mind the fct that the telemedicine service providers with whom you are working will be able to tell you what bandwidth and other requirements their systems need.

Make sure your CV is up to date.

One of the best practices for any occupation is also one of the biggest telemedicine best practices: you’ll want to make sure your CV is as up to date as possible before seeking out work in the field. Of course, this means you’ll want to polish it up with your most recent and your most relevant work experiences.

In particular,you’ll want to highlight any experience related to mobile or remote patient care or using similar technology, even if not specifically for telemedicine. Also, be sure your CV lists all of your active and inactive licenses. This is a big part of what makes you an attractive candidate!

Prepping for your first virtual appointments.

Read your patient’s complaints beforehand.

When going into your first virtual appointments, you’ll want to make sure you follow the same standards and clinical guidelines as you would with your physical in-person visits. That all begins with reading the summary of your patient’s medical issue or complaint before going into the visit, allowing you to be more prepared for a professional and productive meeting between patient and physician. After all, your patients more than likely want a virtual visit to save them from plodding away in a waiting room, and the more prepared you are, the more the telemedicine route works in their favor (and, in turn, yours).

Ask the right questions and document the answers.

Again, you’ll want your telemedicine best practices to closely follow your in-person/physical appointment ones, and that continues with asking the right questions. But not only that; you also want to take a thorough history of the patent’s current ailment or illness. Asking the right questions and documenting the answers is arguably even more important in a virtual setting since you’re not actually there to conduct a physical examination, so all of your recommendations and diagnoses will be based strictly on what the patient is saying. Make sure you hear everything correctly – and don’t be afraid to ask the patient to repeat something if you think you might have misunderstood!

Keep up your virtual “bedside” manner.

Even on a computer screen, maintain eye contact or even nod along while taking notes to show that you’re paying attention to your patient’s problems and that their time is still valued. A good tip for maintaining eye contact through the computer screen is to look directly into your webcam as opposed to your patients’ eyes on the screen, which won’t sync up properly with what they say. It may sound tricky at first, but it really helps to create a more intimate and “lifelike” experience. Also, remember that even when you’re not talking, you’re still being closely watched on screen, and your physical mannerisms impact how your patient feels. Behave accordingly!

Needless to say, you’ll also want to refrain from showing up to a proper appointment, virtual or otherwise, in sweatpants and a t-shirt. Instead, dress how you would want your patients to see you in a brick and mortar office to reinforce confidence in your professionalism and expertise. And finally, make sure your room (or wherever area of your house you’ll be conducting visits from) is quiet and clean, at least as far as the patient’s field of vision is concerned. Always tidy up before your workday to make sure there’s no mess or clutter in the background!

Clearly explain next steps.

End your virtual appointments just like you would an in-person one: by explaining next steps to your patients. This will probably be even more important within the context of a virtual setting because these next steps won’t always be as clear, especially to those who are new to the benefits of telemedicine. Whether they need to pick up one of your electronically prescribed medicines from their local pharmacy or are expected to visit with you again in a month, make it clear before ending the call. If a physical visit is absolutely the best next step, make sure to ask them about their ability to travel to a facility and where they would prefer to be seen.

Ready to Start Experiencing the Benefits of Telemedicine?

As the telemedicine market continues to expand, so will the associated job opportunities. As a physician, one of the best resources you can have in the upcoming years is a reliable telemedicine staffing company specializing in a large array of specialties, including family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, cardiology, medical oncology, and many more.

MedLink is a leading multi-specialty physician staffing company that works with telemedicine platform companies and healthcare organizations across all 50 states to find skilled physicians.

Contact us today to learn how we can shift many of the most common burdens associated with getting started in telemedicine away from you and to our dedicated staff. This will free you up to focus on finding viable and exciting new telemedicine opportunities in some of the top medical specialties currently thriving online.