How to Become a Telemedicine Physician
2020 was a year that none of us will forget. COVID-19 impacted many aspects of our society especially healthcare. It not only challenged the medical community’s ability to effectively manage a global pandemic, but it has questioned the core of healthcare delivery.
One positive change as a result of these challenging times has been the implementation of telemedicine. The delivery of direct patient care remotely via audio/visual platforms.
Most if not all physicians were forced to incorporate some aspect of telemedicine into their practice during COVID-19. I bet you’re a little bit like me and at some point said to yourself, “Hey this isn’t so bad!”. Telemedicine offers the ability to:
- Work from home
- Eliminate the hassles of the office
- Streamline patient check-in and check-out
- See more patients in a shorter period of time
- Focus on the patient without distractions
Have you wondered how to become a telemedicine physician? Are you interested in shifting some or maybe most of your direct patient care to telemedicine? Do you have any idea how to build a telemedicine practice?
Fear not, we are here to help.
VirtuCare is a direct-to-consumer telemedicine company. We are working tirelessly to find compassionate specialists, with an excellent bedside manner, to connect you with patients so they can get the expert care they deserve.
We’ve already gone through all of the tedium of figuring out how to become a telemedicine physician. Let’s review what steps you need to take for yourself to get started in telemedicine. In the end if you think you’re a fit to help us build a physician-led, patient-centric company then we’d love to collaborate. If not then no worries.
Without thinking about your “why” an endeavor that “sounds cool” will ultimately fail.
Transitioning to telemedicine is a big endeavor right now. It is a disruptive healthcare delivery system that is still not 100% accepted by patients and physicians alike.
I bet you’re thinking of becoming a telemedicine physician for some of the same reasons we started VirtuCare. You feel . . .
Marginalized by the system.
Pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and healthcare administrators decrease your autonomy and pay you a smittance compared to their multi billion dollar profits.
Marginalized by your colleagues.
I’ve worked at “physician-led” medical groups where jealous, less industrious colleagues think “us specialists” get paid too much and cut our department’s salary. I also worked for a single specialty group where senior partners were still practicing 1990’s medicine. If you don’t fit in with their outdated business model then you’re just “being difficult.”
Marginalized by your patients.
Patients are frustrated with healthcare as well. Unfortunately they usually take it out on the physician. I try to be empathetic but it wears on you. Patients also seem more than willing to spend $1000 on an iPhone but then complain about paying their $100 deductible.
Our team has been brainstorming ways to address these issues since before the global pandemic. Telemedicine is an opportunity to refocus efforts on the two most important players in the healthcare game:
- The physician
- The patient
Wouldn’t that be nice? Prioritizing the two groups of people most essential to healthcare. The two groups that are marginalized more and more every year in our healthcare system.
Our telemedicine “why” is the patient/physician relationship. What is yours? It’s worth asking yourself as you contemplate becoming a telemedicine physician.
Another “why” question worth considering is “why should we care about telemedicine?” This is a simple economics issue: supply and demand.
It is well known that we have an aging U.S. population. According to the U.S. Census, adults >65 years old are projected to outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in U.S. history by 2034.
Who’s going to care for these patients? By around the same time the Association of American Medical Colleges is predicting an overall physician shortage of up to 139,000 physicians.
Last I checked, our medical education system is not making any dramatic improvements to increase the size of a well-trained physician workforce. The only way we will be able to provide comprehensive care to our aging population is through innovation.
Enter telemedicine. An opportunity to improve access and more efficiently deliver expert health care that our loved ones deserve.
Now the question is . . .
How Do We Deliver Telemedicine?
Now that you’ve figured out your “why”, you’re left still asking “how do I become a telemedicine physician?” Before we answer this on the micro level, we need to examine the macro level (more economics I know).
Despite the utilization of telemedicine during COVID-19, all of the healthcare players still have major questions about how to deliver telemedicine.
- Should we and how do we reimburse providers for telemedicine services?
- Will telemedicine cost us or save us money?
- Is there a possibility of fraud and abuse with remote visits?
- How do we incorporate telemedicine into our overall business strategy?
- How do we oversee the quality of telemedicine care?
- Is telemedicine safe?
- How can you diagnose me properly if you can’t touch me?
- How do I use the technology?
- How do I find enough telemedicine work?
- How will I receive reimbursement for telemedicine?
- How do I practice my specialty without my in-person tools and procedures?
These are some seriously good questions. It appears that there are a number of obstacles to becoming a telemedicine physician. At VirtuCare we love obstacles because they are opportunities to innovate.
Imagine a healthcare environment with a . . .
Better physician experience
- Insurance companies no longer deciding how you should deliver care.
- Cash reimbursement.
- Easy to use EMR while charting only what is medically necessary.
- Work from home.
Better patient experience
- Transparent, affordable healthcare costs.
- Access to the right doctor for your medical problem.
- A happy doctor focused on helping you.
- Eliminate travel, excess paperwork and rude staff members.
This is the world we are working to create at VirtuCare. We believe your path to becoming a telemedicine physician should be done in a patient-focused environment outside the walls of insurance companies. Where the patient has access to you, the doctor. So you can help them address their medical concerns that others are failing to address.
This certainly sounds wonderful. But how do you execute this vision?
How to Become a Telemedicine Physician:
Review State Telemedicine Regulations
There are several things to unpack when you explore telemedicine regulations:
- Do you need a full medical license from the state in which the patient resides?
- What are the technology requirements (e.g. audio and visual visit)?
- What are the patient consent requirements?
- Which insurance companies will reimburse for telemedicine visits and are these visits subject to a deductible?
Unfortunately there is no consistency among state medical licensure boards in terms of telemedicine regulations. Finding the answers on-line can be challenging as well. One benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a temporary suspension to many of these regulations.
Although we are hopeful these antiquated regulations will not return in light of a pandemic and a pending physician shortage, you don’t want to be caught with your pants down (especially on a Zoom call) by seeing a patient without a valid medical license in a particular state. In general, it’s a good idea to only deliver telemedicine in states that you hold a full medical license.
Instead of trying to figure out insurance coverage (which changes by the minute) why not stick to cash telemedicine visits? With a telemedicine visit you are offering a valuable service to patients by eliminating travel, long wait times and unnecessary paperwork. At VirtuCare we have found patients are more than willing to forgo insurance and directly pay their doctor.
Confirm Medical Liability Coverage
Don’t assume your medical malpractice insurance covers telemedicine services. Especially if you hold multiple state licenses and intend to practice telemedicine outside of your primary state of residence. The last thing you want to be surprised with is an out-of-state lawsuit only to find you are not covered by your carrier.
HIPAA Compliant Telemedicine Platform and EHR
If you are dabbling in telemedicine and plan to continue a traditional brick and mortar practice, then it’s likely your current EHR has a telemedicine option. That certainly makes becoming a telemedicine physician much easier.
On the other hand, if you are at a career crossroads and considering full-time telemedicine then what platform should you use? EHRs can be costly as a solo practitioner. You also need to consider that platforms like Zoom have had major security breaches. It’s one thing if someone hacks into your weekly Zoom call with grandma. It’s another issue if it’s your telemedicine visit with an erectile dysfunction patient.
One thing that is clear in healthcare. Don’t mess with HIPAA. Violations are no joke.
At VirtuCare we’ve collaborated with the CallingDr platform. They offer a HIPAA compliant, affordable, telemedicine EHR that you can use from any smartphone, tablet or desktop. It’s easy to use and physician friendly.
Market Telemedicine Services
You are finally ready to go! You’ve reviewed the state regulations. You’ve confirmed medical liability coverage. Lastly your telemedicine EHR is up and running. Now all you need is . . .
And this is where most telemedicine services end their journey. How are you going to find enough telemedicine patients?
Unless you have $376 million in funding like Roman Health to run a national ads campaign on ESPN, your telemedicine services are going to be challenging to market.
There certainly was a lot of side gig money to be had on Teladoc during the height of COVID-19. But now that patients and physicians have returned to their old ways, volumes are down. Regardless, do you want a $40 billion dollar company telling you how to practice medicine? I think not.
You can certainly study digital marketing, SEO and FaceBook ads campaigns. You could also build a pretty website and write some blogs. But it’s more complicated than that. Those endeavors are also quite expensive.
As an alternative you could collaborate. Why don’t you consider joining a team of entrepreneurial physicians looking to disrupt the healthcare industry? A team that’s tired of insurance companies and hospital administrators telling us how to do our job.
Rather than market yourself alone, allow us to help. We are looking for physicians with areas of medical expertise to scale our reach. You don’t have to be a rheumatologist or GI doc (although we’d love it if you were).
Maybe you’re trained in primary care but passionate with expertise in sleep, functional medicine, or weight loss. Or maybe you’re just a rockstar doc with a great bedside manner and feel like you have something more to offer than just being another employed physician. I love the Direct Primary Care movement! Let’s combine forces.
Let’s get back to practicing real medicine. That’s why you become a telemedicine physician. To focus on the patient. To rekindle your love of medicine. Because all of the other BS is not worth it anymore.
VirtuCare is a physician led telemedicine company with a mission of getting patients the care they deserve. We also believe in creating a job that you the physician deserves. Giving you the autonomy, respect and compensation that others are taking from you.
As you consider this journey into becoming a telemedicine physician we wish you the best of luck. Kudos to you “the healthcare disruptor.” If we can help in anyway please contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the other hand, if you would like to consider joining our team then email me directly and I’d be happy to share our mission further.