Nowadays, everyone is connected through social media and smart devices like phones and tablets. Most people don’t tend to associate social media with the practice of medicine, but this widespread connectivity definitely lends itself to the practice of telemedicine.
While large practices have already started developing telemedicine networks, it can be hard for small independent practices to know where to start and whether they are a good candidate for offering telemedicine services to their clients. How can you tell if your practice should start offering telemedicine services?
First, Ask Yourself These Questions
Before you embark on your journey into telemedicine, ask yourself these questions.
- Do I have patients who need to be seen more often but have trouble getting to my office?
- Do I practice in a rural area where patients must travel long distances to make appointments?
- Do I spend a lot of time answering simple questions that could be addressed with a phone call?
- Do patients request after-hours appointments because my hours don’t fit their schedule?
- Do patients fail to make regular visits because of co-pay costs or lack of insurance?
- Do I have patients who travel a lot and may be worried about out-of-network charges if they get sick away from home?
If you answered yes to many or even just a few of these questions, you might be a good candidate for setting up telemedicine services for your patients. There are plenty of people who could benefit from these services from a variety of different backgrounds.
Getting Started in Telemedicine
How do you get started when it comes to setting up a telemedicine network for your patients?
First, figure out what kind of telemedicine services you’re planning on offering. Are you going to offer video appointments for remote patients or after-hours digital appointments for patients who work during the day?
Also, think about the kind of patients you see frequently. Are most of your patients coming in for preventative healthcare appointments, or do you handle more exceptional circumstances such as clinical trials?
In cases such as those, if you have patients who might be seeking clinical trials for new medicines, spend some time looking into the legal aspects for patients who wish to receive expanded access outside clinical trial settings.
Look into your state’s regulations concerning telemedicine. Most states require that your patients are residents of the state where you practice — this could affect whether you are paid by the patient’s insurance plan. More states are offering reimbursement for telemedicine, but it is not a universal program yet, so make sure you’re aware of your state’s laws and offerings for these programs.
Finally, determine the kinds of appointments you will accept for your telemedicine patients. These virtual appointments are wonderful tools for routine appointments, check-ins or prescription refills, but they will not be able to replace in-person appointments in other situations. Be sure you are transparent with your patients as to the kind of appointments you will be offering.
Telemedicine is quickly becoming an invaluable tool for medical professionals who want to offer an additional service for their patients who might not be able to visit their office otherwise. If you’re considering offering these services to your patients, do your research.
Be informed of all laws and regulations that govern the practice of telemedicine in your state, and be transparent with your patients so they’re aware of what services you are able to offer.