How Telemedicine Can Help Your Career as a Physician

Compared to the rest of medicine's history, telemedicine is in its infancy, but that won't be true for very long, thanks to how rapidly technology evolves on the Internet. Originally, it was developed to help treat patients who lived too far to make it to any health facility in a practical amount of time.

While timeliness is still one of its primary uses, telemedicine is expanding greatly, becoming a tool of convenience for patients of all kinds. All patients want to save time and get the care they need right away. This article offers insight into the ever-expanding world of telemedicine and how it can impact a physician’s career.

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What is Telemedicine?

What comes to mind with the word "telemedicine"? Most likely, you imagine patients connecting with doctors through a video chat program. This form of video consultation has rapidly gained traction as a viable alternative to going to urgent care for minor problems.

The full definition, of course, covers much more than that. In particular, telemedicine also refers to any kind of clinical services that you may conduct using telecommunications technology.

For example:

Asynchronous telemedicine solutions

Also known as store-and-forward telemedicine, async telemedicine allows providers to share patient information, such as images, test results, and history, to another provider elsewhere. Imagine an email system, but the main purpose is the share sensitive information about patients safely, so only the intended recipient receives it.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Telemedicine solutions in this category allow you to track vital signs without having to be directly in front of the machines. This makes it much easier to check for warning signs and signal the need for intervention when a patient is recovering from surgery and are also at a health risk. This may also be referred to as home telehealth or telemonitoring.

Is Telemedicine Effective?

For the most part, telemedicine comes out on top when you weigh the pros and cons. After all, it greatly helps expand patients' access to quality care, especially to underserved parts of the country. It also helps cut down the spending, which is difficult in healthcare, while allowing you to focus more on your area of expertise.

A Few Benefits

Even more convenience for patients

Convenient healthcare that is easy to access is the core idea behind the development of telemedicine. It originally served to address shortages in healthcare around the country, especially in rural areas that are so far remote that there is no local healthcare facility.

Now, telemedicine offers convenience all around the world, whether it's to extend basic support to third-world countries or to help the mobile-restricted get help without the struggle. With telemedicine, what we currently think of as barriers to good healthcare may soon no longer even be a passing thought.

Get more consultations and referrals

With a telemedicine system, a hospital system will have little trouble instantly expanding its access to specialists in a wide variety of fields.

Now more than ever before, primary care doctors can work directly with specialists and vice versa, allowing patients to get help for their rare condition no matter where they live. For example, telemedicine can allow a small healthcare facility to outsource test results for evaluation when they do not have the necessary equipment in their town.

Better patient care

All in all, telemedicine makes the whole experience easier for patients too, as providers can follow-up without the need for an in-house visit.

The chronically ill benefit greatly as they're often looking for way to be monitored while getting access to quick information on a regular basis. With a subscription model, you'll be able to support new jobs, high quality care for chronically ill patients, and continue to sustain a stable stream of additional income.

Telemedicine has been truly beneficial in keeping an eye on patients with congestive heart failure, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and who require wound care. Patients report a higher satisfaction, especially the younger generations; they're all enthusiastic adopters, unlike the resistant boomers.

Flexibility for Physicians

Doctors also benefit from the ability to work part-time, choosing to see patients right out of their own home during their own hours. This is especially helpful for providers who are hoping to start a family or begin a private private practice.

How Is Telemedicine Deployed

By now, you should have an idea of what telemedicine is, but how are these services actually deployed? What connects providers to the underserved, remote areas of the country? The following are a few examples of the many different ways telemedicine can exist in a bustling hospital structure, connecting you to various facilities all at once.

Networked Programs

These high-speed connections link remote doctor's offices to metropolitan hospitals and facilities of similar size. So far, about 200 telemedical programs reach out to over 3,000 remote rural areas.

Point to Point Connection

This type of setup connects a number of remote centers to a single central facility using the Internet. They're commonly set up for teleradiology, telepsychiatry, and for urgent care services, allowing understaffed clinics to outsource evaluations to a facility on the same system.

Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring is an important benefit of telemedicine, linking the patient's house with a remote facility, allowing the patient to be safely monitored at home as the machines' data transmits to the facility. This usually requires Internet, but it can also send information by telephone or SMS.

Which Model Is Best For You?

Your time is valuable, and you should get paid for it. If you're interested in collecting insurance reimbursement, then it's important to get the right telemedicine platform for your healthcare system. There are companies that will work with your existing patient demographics to figure out the best way to maximize insurance reimbursement.

Alternatively, you may choose to keep your virtual appointments strictly to cash. This works out on both ends since you can open yourself to whatever hours you want, and customers willing to pay out of pocket for the convenience will likely do so. Another alternate still to charging a cash amount per service is to offer a flat subscription fee charged every month; this is a great option for those who will come in regularly, such as a family with lots of young kids, or for the chronically ill.

Additional Benefits for Physicians

The following are just a couple of the several benefits you'll have with telemedicine in your practice:

Work/Life Balance

Physicians are definitely no stranger to burnout, and the idea of any kind of work/life balance may seem laughable. Between all the patients that come in and all the paperwork they need, it's hard enough to imagine adding the responsibilities of the house on top of that, so it's no wonder there's a high risk of burnout.

Fortunately, this does not need to be the norm. With the addition of telemedicine, you'll have better control over your patient load, the hours you work, and how many of those hours you work.

Add flexibility to your work schedule

As previously mentioned, one of the best benefits of a telemedicine appointment is that both the doctor and patient can choose when to have appointments. If you prefer to work during a certain range of hours, whether it is your normal working hours or not, it's a good idea to schedule virtual appointments during those hours.

Get more money for the same — or fewer — hours

With telemedicine, you'll be able to take on more quick appointments without setting aside time to get patients put into specific rooms to wait for you. By reducing how the number of steps involved from making an appointment to seeing your patient, you'll be able to see that many more patients in the same amount of time as in the office. If you normally see 15 patients a day, you might be able to bump it up to 25 patients during the same hours.

Job Variety

Another perk for physicians is job variety. Telemedicine allows you to change up the daily drudgery by tackling new things. For example, Orthodontists often enjoy working on a teledentistry platform because they can learn without “getting their fingers wet,” aka treating patients sitting in their chair for the usual treatment modality.

Increased Patient Satisfaction

Medicine has evolved much faster thanks to new technology and patients experience the upside for this. In the past we were working on paper, which slowed things down and often meant longer waiting periods for patients while doctors communicated about them. Today we have online payer portals, digital medical records, modern practice management systems, and similar technology that helps expedite many of the tedious processes of healthcare. This means patients can move quickly from one doctor or specialist to another, without having to repeat their medical information to each person.

Other ways telemedicine improves patient satisfaction include:

Scheduling Flexibility

Because telemedicine allows you to offer flexible hours, including at night or on weekends, patients feel they have more choices for their schedules. Patients may even be able to receive care or speak directly with their doctor without major disruption to work and daily life.

Happier Patients and Improved Outcomes

When patients don't need to leave their home, they're much more likely to follow through with a follow-up appointment. When you are able to make more meaningful engagements with patients in this way, patients are happier and experience improved outcomes, especially when it comes to managing chronic conditions.

Starting Your Practice

Fortunately, for all the benefits that telemedicine offers, implementing the platform isn't that difficult as long as you know what you're doing ahead of time. Here are just a few tips to help get you started:

Pick the right platform

It seems obvious, but it's important enough to reiterate: You want to pick the right telemedicine solution for your practice and needs. How do you want to use telemedicine, and what features will you need to achieve that goal?

Make sure your staff is on the same page

You won't succeed at telemedicine if your staff isn't completely on board. Whether it's just you or you are part of a team of providers, other staff members will nonetheless be part of your workflow. At the very least, let them know once you pick your platform so they know what to expect in the workflow.

Get set up and trained

Most platforms today are intuitive, but you still need to train yourself to ensure you are intimate with the program. Consider adding a training package to your purchase if the software vendor offers this as an option. By investing in training now, the process becomes that much easier for the long term.

Learn about policy in your state

Each state has its own policies regarding the practice of telemedicine, so do your research. For example, are you legally allowed to diagnose patients from other states?

Pick a billing policy

As we previously touched on, you may wish to pick cash only or otherwise opt for insurance reimbursement. The latter requires research into the guidelines, and getting in touch with providers.

Overall, you'll want to consider your patients, what is best for them, what platform will best serve those needs, and how to achieve it all within your budget.

Telemedicine Physician Job Search

If you’re ready to start looking for telemedicine job listings, click here to see the current listings from across the country. Our job listings are unique in that you can not only apply for the job yourself, but also refer a colleague if a position isn’t right for you. Referring your colleagues is a great way to connect people with great opportunities they may not have otherwise found, and you make a nice referral commission in the process.

The Relode platform was built by healthcare professionals for healthcare professionals and we’re here to support you whether you are looking to land that perfect job or help someone else find theirs.

Molly Powers