Numerous services across a wide range of industries are moving online where individuals can readily access them whether at home, at the office, or even on vacation. Today, many of our essential needs, from shopping to finances, can be handled online; and medical care is no exception. It may seem daunting to work as a telehealth physician, but it can actually be a very simple and positive experience. Read on to find out more about telehealth physicians, including how to become one and how to choose the right telehealth company for you.
What Is a Telehealth Physician?
What Do They Do?
According to the Health Resources Services Administration, telehealth refers to the use of electronic and telecommunication methods to care for patients at a distance.
This could include providing:
- Personal health care
- Patient education
- Public health services
Telehealth can take many different forms from appointments over a landline or cellular telephone to videoconferencing via a webcam.
You should note that telehealth is slightly different from telemedicine. While the term telemedicine takes a very narrow approach of providing only clinical services to patients, telehealth refers to many more aspects of the entire health care experience, including non-medical concerns such as appointment scheduling, administrative meetings, and continuing education.
In addition, keep in mind that telehealth physicians typically do not deal with emergent health concerns, which still should be treated in an emergency room setting.
- Telehealth doctors can treat a variety of physical concerns, such as influenza, digestive complaints and pink eye, and many others.
- Some telehealth physicians focus on psychotherapy, providing services for an array of complaints, including anxiety and depression.
- Teledermatologists can provide consultations for rashes, acne, moles, and other skin concerns.
As a telehealth physician, you will chat with patients to assess their current issues. You may provide recommendations on how to care for an infected cut at home, provide them with a doctor's note due to illness, or prescribe medications that they can pick up at a local pharmacy.
Telehealth is best for straightforward issues as well as simple follow-up appointments.
Is There Any Special Training for Telehealth?
The great news is that you will not have to go through any additional training to become a telehealth physician. As long as you are comfortable with basic technology, you will find that you only need to bring the medical skills you already have into your practice. If you need assistance with new software, your telehealth company will provide you with the necessary training before you get started.
How Much Do Telehealth Doctors Make?
According to Zip Recruiter, the national average annual salary for a telehealth physician is $192,454.
Salaries differ based on the state you're licensed in and the telehealth company you are associated with. Many companies pay their physicians by the hour with an average hourly pay rate of $75 to $120.
Others choose to pay physicians by the number of consultations provided with an average pay rate of $5 to $30 per patient visit. Factors include how long the consults take on average and whether they are asynchronous or synchronous encounters.
One way to make more money is to increase the number of states in which you are licensed. By branching out with licenses in more populous states, such as California or New York, you may be able to earn a higher salary due to the demand for telehealth services.
Do Telehealth Doctors Get Benefits?
Some companies provide benefits to physicians who work full time; however, there is an increasing trend toward 1099 contract worker models. While this does not allow for employer benefits, it does increase freedom, flexibility, and in some cases, income potential.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Telehealth Work?
While a telehealth job is ideal for many physicians, it may not be the best fit for everyone. For example, certain physicians are able to provide better and more comprehensive care when they are in the same room as their patients, where they are able to view body language and other objective signs firsthand. Other physicians, such as surgeons, simply cannot practice their specialty via telephone or webcam.
The physicians who will fit best into a telehealth role include those with the following traits:
Telehealth providers must be able to work independently, as many of them will be working from home. They must have the initiative to complete consultations on their own.
Because telehealth physicians are not working closely with other physicians in a clinical setting, they must be confident enough to diagnose and treat patients independently. This type of confidence comes from ample education and experience.
Since patient visits will be limited to the telephone or webcam, the physician must be able to communicate clearly with the patient and gather enough information to complete an accurate assessment and treatment plan.
While multitasking is a huge part of any medical practice, it is especially crucial in telehealth. Physicians must balance a potentially high call volume with the necessity for high-quality care in a timely manner.
Finding the Best Telehealth Job; What to Look For
As you look for the best telehealth job to fit your needs, you will want to make the following considerations to narrow down the field of prospective companies. If you cannot find the answers to these questions on your own, remember to ask during your interview. Remember that the telehealth company should be working for you just as much as you work for the company.
This may be one of the most important considerations you can make. In the perfect setting, you will have a constant flow of patients during your work hours so that you can stay busy. This is particularly important if the number of consultations is paying you. You should also find out time requirements for responding to patients and completing consults, as well as how you communicate with patients and document consultations.
Patient Type and Expectations
You should know what types of patients you will be caring for and how they will connect with you. The length of time needed to complete a consultation will change if you are required to perform a full intake. However, some companies take patient profiles and complete triage work before you ever meet the patient.
You will want to find out whether you are paid by the hour or by the number of consultations you complete. You will also want to learn about possible bonuses and payment systems. The amount you are paid should reflect not only the amount of work you do but also the risk you take on as an independent contractor.
Ask about when your shifts will be scheduled. What time of day will you be working, how many hours per week are required, and if you can work this new assignment around your existing medical practice? You may want to consider taking on a short-term or seasonal role initially so that you can gain some experience before deciding if you want to transition to full time.
Ordering and Followup Requirements
You may only be able to order certain medications that are part of a formulary. Also, be aware of any requirements for following up with patients after initial consults.
While some telehealth companies charge patients directly, others work with specific health insurance carriers to share costs. Some even work with businesses to provide health care services for their employees. Be cautioned by companies that rely on multi-level marketing schemes to build their practices.
Support and Insurance
Additionally, you will need to make sure that you have appropriate malpractice insurance if the telehealth company does not provide coverage. The company should also offer sufficient support throughout the credentialing process.
License Requirements and State Regulations
You will need to have an active medical license for the state where your patients are located. Inquire about any additional requirements or regulations, as they can vary by state.
How to Stand Out and Get Hired
1. Create a Focused and Accurate Medical CV
Take some time now to work on your medical CV, including your most recent employment and any professional accomplishments. In particular, highlight anything that has prepared you for a telehealth job, such as mobile patient care, so that you can set yourself apart from other candidates. Additionally, list any licenses you have, and make sure that they are current.
2. Have a Good "Webside Manner"
Webside manner is the telehealth version of bedside manner. A listening ear, along with clear communication skills, are going to be crucial as a telehealth provider. If you are using a webcam to perform synchronous consultations, take some time to make sure your background, lighting, and camera angle provide a clear and non-distracting view.
3. Go Through Basic Telehealth Training
While the way that you practice medicine will not change, the platform you use to connect with patients will. Be sure that you are confident in your practice by getting appropriate training on how to use webcams and other telehealth platforms.
4. Join Professional Organizations
Joining professional organizations, such as the American College of Physicians, is important as a doctor. But you will also want to focus on organizations that specialize in telehealth, such as the American Telemedicine Association or the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth. As a member, you will be able to network with physicians doing the same type of work as you.
Joining a larger group, such as Wheel, can also be immeasurably beneficial.
Wheel gives you the opportunity to do telehealth work on more than one remote patient care platform, opening the door to reaching more patients, and improving your own practice.
- Wheel makes it easy for MDs and DOs to get started, giving clinicians plenty of opportunities to pick up more patients while still letting them build the perfect work/life balance for them.
- Even more importantly, Wheel provides the support physicians need without any of the red tape you might find on other sites.
- Physicians are expertly matched to the right patients and job opportunities.
Through Wheel, you can do everything from ordering lab work and reviewing results to providing virtual diagnostics and treatments for your patients. You can get started by using Wheel's simple pre-application screener so that you can match with the best possible opportunities.
If you are ready for a career change as a physician, telehealth may be the right path for you. By working remotely, you can help patients across the country meet their healthcare needs. Use these tips to prepare yourself to become the best telehealth physician possible and find a telehealth company that meets your unique interests.