Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Working From Home Part II – Telemedicine

Author: Heather Fork, MD, CPCC

Imagine you are in your kitchen, enjoying your morning cup of coffee, catching up on the news. In a few minutes you will walk down the hall to your study and start helping your first patient of the day – on the computer!

Last week, in Working From Home Part I, I discussed doing Chart Reviews. In today’s post, I will address the growing opportunities for physicians doing Telemedicine.

With all of the advances in digital information and communication, telemedicine is an up and coming area for healthcare growth.

More and more companies are springing up that offer telehealth services for minor, primary care health issues.

A physician working for such a company is provided electronically with the medical records and chief complaint for the patient. The “patient visit” will take place either via email or over the telephone. Sometimes only advice and information is given, other times a prescription may be recommended. If the doctor feels it is indicated, the patient will be referred to seek medical care in person.

Some of the most common patient calls are for:

  • Sinusitis
  • Urinary Tract Infections &
  • STD’s

Calls on average are from 8-12 minutes. Physicians are paid on average from $20-$35 per call. Internal Medicine, Family Practice and ER physicians are in demand, however any physician who is comfortable with primary care medicine could be eligible.

Once hired, a physician can let the company know when they are available to take patient cases.

A number of Telemedicine companies I spoke with alluded to the fact that they could be seeing a big increase in their demand for services. This is due in part to potential affiliations with pharmacy stores and insurance companies.

Another way telemedicine is used is in radiology. Since most images are now digitalized, some radiologists contract with teleradiology companies and do all of their readings from home.

In California, legislation to update the telehealth law and remove policy barriers to service was signed into law on October 7th by Governor Jerry Brown. This bill will (among other things):
• Replace the outdated terminology of “telemedicine” with “telehealth.”
• Update the definition of telehealth to reflect the broader range of services in use today.
• Change the need for an additional written patient consent to a verbal consent.
• Eliminate restrictions on reimbursement of services provided by email or telephone.

If you are interested in doing telemedicine, you could get in early on the curve, and be a part of what will likely be a growth area for the foreseeable future.

About the author:

Heather Fork, MD, CPCC, is owner and founder of the Doctor’s Crossing. As an ICF certified coach, she works with physicians who are seeking to renew and reinvigorate their careers and avoid burnout. She helps doctors tap into their natural abilities and passion to create new and inspiring opportunities within clinical medicine or through non-clinical options. Knowing that too many physicians are suffering from stress and burnout, Dr. Fork is dedicated to improving physician well-being collectively, as well as individually.  

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