How to Become a Telemedicine Physician

Telemedicine has finally started to take a foothold as an efficient and high quality means to take care of patients. It is estimated that 7 million patients will use telemedicine in 2018. The payers have begun reimbursing for more services, and, more importantly, patients have become more accepting of telemedicine. There are a growing number of telemedicine technology platform companies out there seeking primary care physicians for a variety of patient needs.

Here is how to get started…

  1. Decide if it’s right for you. The types of consults include routine primary care for insurance company patients, Direct to Consumer where patients have gone online seeking care, nursing home visits to reduce hospital readmission rates, and platform companies working in the DME space needing licensed physicians to fit and prescribe orthotic devices, to name a few. The per visit reimbursement rate is lower than a bricks and mortar visit; however, you can likely do 4-5 consults per hour with fewer no shows than an office-based practice.  The average telemedicine consult lasts about 15 minutes.
  2. Do your research. Take the time to research the telemedicine jobs with all of the platform companies in the space, and be sure you understand what type of consults they are needing you to perform. For this to be a worthwhile endeavor, volume is key, so be sure you will be able to get enough consults in the states you are licensed. Many telemedicine platforms will actually arrange your scheduled appointments in a queue, creating a constant flow of remote consultations.
  3. Get on several platforms. The easiest way to get into telemedicine is to sign on with a company as a contract telemedicine physician. To ensure a constant flow of consults, sign up with at least two to three telemedicine companies. They will step you through some credentialing, but nothing like you would experience in getting on staff at a hospital or one of the health plans. Telemedicine companies do differ in their overall ease of use within their platform, but you likely won’t know until you get started. Find companies that complement, not conflict, with your current practice. You can always opt out if one of them is not a good fit.
  4. Block out the time.  Offer up your availability in 3-4 hour blocks of time at least 2-3 days per week for starters. You can be scheduled in appointment queues with more than one platform during these hours, ensuring a steady flow of patients for these hours. Keep in mind that if you don’t complete a minimum number of consultations each week, you could be moved to inactive status in the system. So, to give it a good try- make the time commitment.
  5. Set up the right space for conducting telemedicine visits. Create a dedicated space for conducting telemedicine visits to avoid interruptions and to ensure privacy. The technology requirements are generally minimal and include a telephone and internet connection, camera, computer monitor and a microphone. Many of your visits will be conducted by telephone, but some may require both audio and visual. The use of smartphones is taking hold as well.

With no signs of demand for telemedicine slowing, this could be the perfect time to add telemedicine consultations to your repertoire.