Telemedicine provides the ability for physicians to extend their practice, offer better access to care, and to connect easily with patients who for whatever reason cannot travel to the office for an appointment.
In recent weeks, we’ve been hearing from a number of our physician clients who feel overwhelmed by the 3-minute “drive by” appointments they can offer to patients that schedule in-office appointments. We’ve been suggesting that they consider adding telemedicine options for patients in order to extend their primary care access and capacity. When we explain that there are now 22 states that require insurers to process telemedicine claims that meet the right criteria for evaluation and management services, their inclination seems to increase. When we explain further that income and ROI can go from $1-$3 per minute to $10-15 per minute while reducing about 19% overhead, we capture their attention.
Not all telemedicine systems are alike. Some afford patients the chance to “dial a stranger” meaning the practitioner with whom they connect online or by phone is not their regular doctor that knows them, knows their history, but is a live interaction with a stranger to them. The average cost of those visits is about $65. The notes from the visit don’t go into their personal physicians EMR, and they are rarely, if ever, reimbursed or covered by insurance plans. But that’s not the model of telemedicine that has me enthusiastic.
The telemedicine that extends specialist care access to which I refer is one that is used by a patient’s personal physician. Often it is set up as a “store and forward” application. The patient can log in from a smart phone, laptop, or desktop computer, enter the presenting chief complaint, fill in a questionnaire, handle their financial responsibility (copay, no pay, or full cost are all options giving traditional and concierge physicians a plethora of options), and off it goes to their personal medical specialist.
As soon as the specialist has a few moments (generally 3-5 minutes) time to review the patient’s questionnaire, and perhaps view a video or some photos to see a rash, swelling, a healing surgical wound, or other signs and symptoms, they can take a few minutes, order what they need from the pharmacy through e-prescribing, prepare a response to the patient from a library of responses that is custom to the physician. Once they click “send” to respond back to the patient, copies of the visit note go to the EMR, the e-prescribing system, and payment arrangements are handled either by the telemedicine vendor, the insurance biller of the practice, or in some cases, no bill is prepared as it may be included in the patient’s concierge membership contract or be a “post-op no charge” visit.
Studies have shown that the percentage of appointments kept is higher when patients need to travel less. And they tend to show up for their telemedicine appointments on time because there is less travel involved. Specialists who incorporate telemedicine into their practices for care and consults can save time and travel expenses they would otherwise incur without such technologies. Telemedicine can also make your expertise more widely available, providing an additional added value. Telemedicine’s major benefit to patients is convenience.
High wage-earner patients and those that travel for work appreciate the savings that result from a reduction in travel and the costs associated with it. Depending on the distance traveled, a doctor’s appointment may consume part of, or the whole day. When factoring in a day away from the job or the cost of daycare for children while the adult patient makes a regular in-person visit, telemedicine shows substantial savings of both time and money. And considering patients for whom travel is difficult if not impossible, the face-to-face interaction that telemedicine provides is invaluable. Of course, while not every situation is appropriate for telemedicine visits, a number of situations where it is not being used currently would increase access and appointment availability significantly while reducing overhead associated with overtime pay, and other expenses tied to direct patient care.
If you’d like to know more about how easily this can be added to your practice, give me a call and we can discuss your options. We’ve chosen MeVisit as our exclusive partner. If you’d like to chat with them, we have a special relationship with them and they’ve offered an exclusive arrangement for our clients.