The telehealth field has been rapidly expanding in recent years as clinicians and patients alike have realized just how beneficial this service can be. It has been oft used by patients in rural areas as well as by those who may not have the time, money, or transportation to get to a traditional in-person appointment. Telehealth services are also incredibly important for those who do not want to risk picking up any new germs in office waiting rooms or examination rooms.
However, despite this exponential growth, many physicians are left wondering just how competitive this field really is and whether or not it can compete with in-person physician jobs. Is it worth leaving one’s current job to pursue a career in telehealth, and does it offer a real long-term career growth trajectory? The following article will help you break down exactly what telehealth is, what a typical salary will look like, what variables can affect your salary, and whether this job could be a real possibility for improving your career.
Please note that the salary mentioned below does not directly refer to the salary that Wheel provides, but instead is taken from outside sources.
Telehealth is a unique meshing of the traditional medical field with today’s most cutting-edge technology, and it is used to help patients access high-quality health care wherever they are. Telehealth physicians are vital pieces in the health care puzzle as they must be knowledgeable in medicine and be able to use the Internet, mobile devices, computers, cameras, and more as an adjunct to their full practices. They must be able to act as their own IT and be creative in their assessment techniques.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth refers to the electronic delivery of quality health care through a variety of remotely based technologies. It could include many aspects of health care, including:
- Certain treatments
- Follow-up appointments
- Patient education sessions
- Health information services
To provide and receive Telehealth, patients and providers must have access to mobile devices, personal computers, cameras, telephones, the Internet, or a combination of the above.
Telehealth can be used at home, in the office, while on vacation and virtually anywhere one can access it. A limit to telehealth is the legislation surrounding the location of the provider. While a provider can care for a patient anywhere inside their state's borders, care for outside of the state or outside of the country can be tricky. Most states allow for care of the provider's own patients to be cared for outside of those boundaries, but not new patients.
In addition, telehealth is not meant only for the patient/provider relationship. Telehealth can also include provider-to-provider interaction. Such as in the case of a radiologist communicating CT scan results to a primary care physician. Whether these encounters are billable or not will depend on the type of service being provided and the applicable state's laws.
Another key part of telehealth includes the online or app-based portals through which patients and providers can communicate and on which patients can schedule appointments, ask questions of providers, access billing summaries, and find pertinent health education resources. This portal will also provide reminders for important health events, such as necessary vaccinations, health screenings, and medication refill needs. Again, billing for these asynchronous or non-realtime services may not be allowed in your state.
What Is a Telehealth Physician?
A telehealth physician functions much as a traditional physician does except within the mobile, remote, and technological communication realm.
This physician will meet with patients, answer questions, examine common complaints, make recommendations, provide diagnoses, and order treatments just as he or she would in a traditional physician’s office.
However, this physician must also be comfortable using the newest technology, and while performing each of these important tasks as he or she will be delivering care to patients in a remote setting. The telemedical provider will not have the ability to fully assess their patients, so they must be well skilled in obtaining a history and completed a physical exam without touching their patient. While the telehealth provider will only meet with patients using this technology, a telehealth physician may also communicate with other healthcare sectors through technology.
Telehealth physicians must be licensed in the states in which they practice. They can treat a wide range of patient complaints depending on their specialties, the same as in-person. Some address acute needs, such as sore throats and urinary tract infections, while others deal more with chronic conditions, such as pain, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. These physicians can often choose the schedule that works best for them and can determine their ideal patient load.
How Much Does a Telehealth Physician Make?
If you are considering a career as a telehealth physician or are considering moving from your in-person practice to a telehealth practice either full-time or part-time, you will certainly find yourself with plenty of questions. One of the most common concerns is how much you can expect to make as a telehealth physician working remotely.
Many telehealth physicians are paid by the consultation rather than as a yearly salary. In some cases, certain telehealth physicians are paid by the hour or by the number of emails or texts they send out to their patients or to other providers.
Those being paid by the consultation can expect to make between $23 to $28 per patient they treat in urgent care.
This typically includes internal medicine, family practice, and pediatrics. However, psychiatric telehealth physicians can expect to make more than this per consult. Each consultation generally takes between 3 to 15 minutes.
For those being paid by the hour, rates run from $15 to $50 or more per hour.
Meaning that the physician could be making between $30,000 and $500,000 annually depending on how many hours they put in per week and their specialization. In fact, physicians in specialty care areas, such as cardiology or psychiatry, could make up to $200 per hour.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physicians and surgeons average $208,000 per year.
While the BLS does not specifically address telehealth physicians in this average, the burgeoning number of telehealth jobs currently hitting the job market gives potential job candidates a better idea of how much they can expect to make in this particular field.
For example, ZipRecruiter, a popular job matching company and job listing search engine, shows that the average annual salary for telehealth physicians in the United States was at $192,454 as of August 2020.
The job board has seen jobs offering as much as $308,500 and as little as $28,500 per year. However, the majority of job seekers will fall between the 25th percentile of $111,500 and the 75th percentile of $241,500 per year. These estimates and averages come from the company’s constant searching of its own database of job listings throughout the country.
By comparing the numbers from the BLS with ZipRecruiter's numbers, you can see that telehealth physicians should probably expect to make a bit less than their counterparts working in-person physician jobs. The difference comes out to approximately $15,500 per year or a seven percent decrease.
Variables That Can Make a Big Difference in Salary
As you can imagine and as you have already seen, there are plenty of variables that can affect the amount of money you could earn as a telehealth physician. Thankfully, there is also plenty of flexibility in this field, meaning that you can often work when, where, and how often you please.
In order to provide medical care to your patients, you must be licensed to practice in their state of residence. Treating patients outside your state of licensures is illegal in telehealth just as it is for in-person physician practices. (During COVID these borders have blurred a bit, it is best to consult individual state's websites or a trusted group website, such as the AMA, prior to completing a cross-border evaluation).
Because of this, you will find that you not only can reach a higher number of patients but also can bring in a higher salary if you choose to become licensed in more than one state.
Some states have higher needs for increased telehealth services and more patients who choose to use telehealth. Getting additional licensures in these states is certainly a smart step. Some of the states with the highest hourly and yearly wages for telehealth physicians include the following:
- New York with a $101.49 hourly wage and a $211,096 yearly wage
- Massachusetts with a $100.53 hourly wage and a $209,100 yearly wage
- Washington with a $99.83 hourly wage and a $207,641 yearly wage
Other top-paying states include New Hampshire, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Vermont. Those with the lowest wages include North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, and Illinois.
Of course, your area of expertise and your specialization will also affect your salary. Working as an internal medicine or family practice physician providing remote health care can certainly be fulfilling and can pay the bills. However, branching out into a specialty can help you earn much more. The provider, of course, must be trained and certified in this area in order to provide those specialized services.
For example, telehealth family medicine physicians only make an average of $191,102 per year. Other top-paying specialties in telehealth include adult psychiatry, child psychiatry, gastroenterology, and endocrinology.
However, telehealth cardiologists make $464,000 yearly, and telehealth radiologists make $494,400 yearly on average.
Next, you will also need to factor in the amount of time you plan to work each day. With the flexibility of telehealth on your side, you will easily be able to choose either full-time or part-time work in this field.
You will need to consider how many patients you can easily see each hour and what time of day you will most frequently work.
Most telehealth physicians cannot fit in any more than six consultations per hour. In order to do this, they usually have to work from several different platforms and be very good at multitasking. A better and more reasonable average is four patient consultations per hour. If you plan on utilizing more than one platform while working telehealth, assure that there is no non-compete or similar clause in your contract to avoid problems later on.
In addition, telehealth physicians should keep in mind that patient volume may rise or fall based on what time of day they are working and the states in which they are licensed. For example, if they live and work from the West Coast but are also licensed in several East Coast states, they may need to adjust their schedules to match better with the eastern time zone.
Finally, the amount of money you can earn as a telehealth physician will also be directly related to the company and platform with which you choose to work. The company will help determine how many patients you can see every hour, what hours you will need to work and what compensation and benefits structure you will see.
Wheel is a great option for you if you want to work on more than one remote telehealth platform. It is a great option for MDs, DOs, and NPs who are just getting started in telehealth and who want a company with plenty of experience and support that will help them build their ideal careers. In addition, Wheel is also a fabulous choice for telehealth physicians who are tired of not getting the patient load they want and deserve.
With Wheel, you can get all of the support you need without any of the irritating holdups that you might find on other sites. Here, you can build and improve your medical practice while adapting to all that remote care technology has to offer you.
Wheel will help match you to the right telehealth job platforms and to the right patients based on your specialty area. You will be able to diagnose and treat patients while also reviewing results to provide superb continuity of care.
If working as a telehealth physician sounds appealing to you, you should know that it is a growing field on which increasing numbers of patients across the country are coming to rely. Choosing this route can help you create a more flexible life and a rewarding career.
By choosing Wheel as your telehealth company, you will also get the support you need when making this important and life-changing switch.
The same as any other aspect of healthcare, telehealth takes time to master and fully understand. There are digital specific lessons that must be learned as well as skills that come with time and practice. Do not get frustrated, utilize the Wheel support team to learn and grow in the digital field.