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Part 2: Should You Start New or Add Telemedicine to Your Current Practice? The Pros and Cons

5 Jan, 2018

A fully virtual medical practice can be an exciting prospect. You have the freedom to work from anywhere, that too at a much lower overhead than a full-service operation. The feasibility of a virtual practice as you are aware varies by specialty.

Another critical thing to remember at this point is that you don’t have to go virtual ‘entirely’ to enjoy the flexibility of telemedicine. That’s right. Many practitioners enjoy fewer days in the office, more favorable scheduling and increased revenue by integrating telemedicine into an existing practice. There are advantages and drawbacks to both and this precisely what we shall be discussing right here – Our second post in the series “Starting Your Telemedicine Practice.”

Here’s how you can incorporate telemedicine into your existing practice

If you already have an office up-and-running, you can introduce telemedicine into your existing operation. This is beneficial for the fact that you can utilize your current staff and infrastructure while still getting the flexibility of telemedicine.

1. You won’t have to manage your own schedule

To take advantage of the low overhead of virtual practices, many practitioners schedule for themselves or allow patients to plan their appointments within the telemedicine platform. While this is an excellent option, it can get slightly challenging if you don’t have a virtual office manager to handle this. By working with your existing staff, you have a team of people who can take care of scheduling for you.

2. Phone calls and questions are managed through your current practice

Again, if you’re running a low-overhead operation, after hours call or post-visit questions will come to you directly. Yes, there’s no need to have a separate email or phone number.

3. You can add flexibility, but you won’t be able to hit the road quite as much

By keeping brick-and-mortar, you will likely have to be at the clinic on a regular basis and see in-person patients as well. While that probably isn’t different from what you’re doing now, it won’t be quite as flexible as a fully virtual operation.

Telemedicine is a better option for a doctor who wants to reduce travel between sites than a doctor who wants to be across the country for half of the month.

What happens when you decide to have a fully virtual practice?

1. You really can practice anywhere… as long as your medical license allows

Most state laws, medical licenses allow you to treat patients in the states where you are licensed as long as the patient is located in that state. There are a handful of states that are more restrictive than that, so you will want to check with the board to make sure that your license allows it. By going entirely virtual, you can maintain continuity of care regardless whether you’re in the mountains or on the beach.

2. You have to be strict on protocols

Regardless of the specialty, virtual practices need to have very clearly stated and documented clinical protocols for who you do and do not treat, and how those diagnoses and treatments can be treated safety via telemedicine. You want to be clear about what you don’t treat or prescribe, and you want to make that information available to patients—either through intake paperwork or a consent form. Also, don’t forget to stay up to date with your state laws.

3. You won’t have to hire staff if you don’t want to

One of the most enticing parts of a virtual practice is incredibly low overhead. You can save lots of bucks. You don’t have to hire staff as you will be automating a lot of the paperwork and managing many of the administrative tasks yourself.

You will want to honestly look at your capabilities here. There are a lot of physicians who are better doctors when “managed” by an office manager who takes care of the administrative tasks. That’s okay! There are others who appreciate the flexibility so much that they’re able to shoulder all of it.

A virtual office manager is a great way to offset some of that burden, but you can save the money if you think you’ll be able to answer phones, manage your own schedule and address the technology.

4. You’re going to have to do some marketing

We’ll cover this more in our next post in this series, but if you’re starting from scratch, you’re going to need to get the word out about your practice with effective marketing. You won’t have a big sign on the highway to drive patients to you. It will require a marketing budget and a professional who can launch a full campaign or, at a minimum, some creativity, and a little sweat equity.

So which do you think is best for your practice? At Mend, we can help you launch either. We offer the simplest-to-use platform on the market that can be up-and-running with just a few clicks— once you decide how you want your new virtual practice to run.

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