One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that patients are willing to adapt in order to continue receiving medical care. According to a report on CNBC, virtual healthcare interactions could top one billion by the end of 2020. The impact of the current pandemic has driven the rapid adoption of telehealth services to unforeseen heights, easily overcoming the original barriers of cost, availability, and the relationship factor.
In addition, as most healthcare providers are now well aware of, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services paved the way by providing waivers for the duration of the current emergency. These waivers have allowed physicians to offer more than 80 additional healthcare services through telehealth and to bill for them at the same rate as in-person visits versus the previous lower rates.
As reported in a recent article in Healthcare Finance, Atlanta-based Emory healthcare went from offering no telemedicine appointments to over 4,000 each day, and now 91% of Emory’s providers are telehealth-trained. In addition to providing excellent preventative care and other services, Emory approves because it reduces hefty overhead and keeps revenue flowing.
Now, there is widespread talk that telehealth is here to stay, and it should be made permanently available to Americans coast-to-coast and not just in rural areas where access to care is limited. Congress will need to pass several regulatory changes once the pandemic passes, and many believe it will.
These developments open up a viable new career option for many physicians, with primary care and behavioral health the two areas with the greatest demand. Outside of your typical medical school and residency training, there are no other training requirements to inhibit your ability to practice medicine virtually as a full-time or part-time option. Let’s look at a few things to consider if you’re planning to add telehealth to your physician skill set.
- Meet NCQA Standards. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) recommends that physicians have a minimum of four years practicing in a typical practice setting before jumping into telehealth services. While individual state requirements may vary, a physician looking for the best telehealth opportunities should ensure that they meet the minimum NCQA standards of four years’ experience.
- Telemedicine Providers are not Created Equal. As you would with any job opportunity, a physician who is considering telehealth options should do some homework on the various providers of telehealth services. Basics to consider include Volume, Pay Structure, Work Shifts, Malpractice Support, and Credentialing Support. Another key component in your decision to credential with a particular telemedicine provider is their approach to technology support. The last thing a physician needs is to be experiencing an issue with the virtual platform, and attempts to reach technical support are met with automated email responses. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions about a provider’s technical support process before signing on with them.
- Are You Tech-Savvy and Comfortable Caring for Patients Simultaneously? Considering the fact that you will be conducting your patient visits virtually, if you don’t enjoy or struggle to navigate various software applications, telehealth may not be your best career choice just yet. It is never too late to take a couple of courses online to build up your skills. You will quickly master any telehealth interface.
- Develop Your Virtual Bedside Manner. One of the biggest learning curves for physicians who begin adding telehealth services to their repertoire is mastering the doctor-patient relationship virtually. When you sit down with your patient face-to-face, it is much easier to cultivate that vital relationship. When conducting a telehealth visit, it is critical for the physician to hyper-focus on listening and observing as much as possible. Instead of a physical examination, you are relying on what the patient is telling you. This means you have to listen carefully and ask the right questions to narrow down the medical issue at hand.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over, but millions of people have grown accustomed to working from home. Once we are on the other side of this crisis, it will be interesting to see how many industries expand their telecommuting options. The situation is not much different for physicians who have been working from home and want to continue to do so in a more permanent manner. Patients that have adapted to virtual medical visits will continue to do so even after the pandemic threat has dissipated. Now is a perfect time for physicians who want to plan for a full- or even part-time career change to telemedicine.
No matter what direction you envision your physician career path taking you, Jackson Physician Search can help you find an opportunity that best suits your skill set and your lifestyle needs. Contact one of our experienced physician recruitment professionals today and see how we can help you achieve your career goals.