Telemedicine… Are Physicians a Commodity?

Everybody that enters into the healthcare space quickly realizes that there is one driver of producing revenue — physicians!

Without the physician component to medical care delivery, whether brick and mortar or virtual, you will not make money unless you have a physician seeing patients or directing patient care with a mid-level.

So, you have started a telemedicine company — a great platform for the physician and patients to complete the virtual medical encounter. You have a willing patient base be it the, self-insured companies, direct to consumer or health insurance plans. So where do you find the physicians?

Physicians in the 21st Century have opportunities for employment coming at them in so many forms it is dizzying. Add telemedicine to the mix it and it becomes overwhelming. So how do you compete?

telemedicine consultation Telemedicine has a giant advantage over other physician opportunities; they can treat patients from home. Physicians can see patients virtually in Fort Worth while they relax by their pool in Fort Lauderdale. Geographically speaking there are no limits. This is the advantage over other opportunities.

So, how do you gain the upper hand in making your telemedicine opportunity stand out? Compensation, that’s how. In many ways, telemedicine is a very new medical delivery modality and still has some compensation issues.

If you are a telemedicine provider to self-insured companies , utilization from the company employees becomes paramount in creating an attractive compensation plan to the physician. The employer must incentivize its employees to utilize the telemedicine program provided. If not, the cost per patient visit is very expensive if the company has a lot employees and low utilization. Compensating the physician is another trick. Many of the self-insured plans are done on a low and flat monthly fee paid by the employee and matched by the employer when the service is used. The telemedicine company has to have many telemedicine encounters to make sure the physician has adequate patient consults per hour to make it worth their time. Many telemedicine physicians will “stack” several companies and make their availability known to take incoming patients as they become available. Physicians can usually see 3 to 5 patients per hour. If they are available they must have patients to see.

An interesting system developed in telemedicine scheduling comes from the Durable Medical Equipment suppliers. You see advertising at night on television for different kinds of orthotic braces. From these ads, the marketing people gather patients in a state and region. A telephone call is made to each interested patient, and they are then qualified and scheduled. They sign up the patients to be consulted based on the physician’s availability. This is optimum since the system is live and the patients are lined up. A physician can see up to 15 patients in an afternoon without having to call them back, miss them by phone, etc. This maximizes the physician’s time and makes it worth while.

The newest trend that will turn out to be the most profitable is in the insurance market. A non-emergent, non-life threatening encounter at a physician’s office can be expensive and time consuming. If the visit is $130.00 paid by insurance, and a telemedicine visit is $80.00, it is in the insurance company’s interest to have a telemedicine component available for patients with colds, sore throats and flu. This still adequately compensates the physicians per visit and gives the company some more money to work with.

We have only scratched the surface of this exciting and developing market.

It is true; physicians are a commodity and have endless opportunities paraded in front of them on a continual basis. In order to attract them to your telemedicine platform, you need to be able to show them early on that you have the patient base to keep them busy, and you can maximize their time. Convenience will only hold their interest for so long if they are not making money. Consideration needs to be made in providing enough patients, ease of platform usage for both physician and patient, and compensation that satisfies. If you can make these elements work, you will win in the eyes of the physician.