Video Visits With Patients Can Now Boost Your Bottom Line

Neil Chesanow

Disclosures

August 06, 2013

In This Article

A New Way to Augment Your Income

Many doctors -- a majority in Medscape's 2013 Physician Compensation Report, which included over 22,000 physicians -- are dissatisfied with how much they earn. Videoconferencing offers a way to enhance your income in the wake of rising costs, reimbursement reductions, and other claims on your time.

Say it's 3 PM in your office-based practice, 2 patients cancelled, another failed to appear, and the waiting room is empty. You can sit around for 2 hours not earning money while bills pile up, or you can log onto a private network of patients who are online and waiting to see a doctor. You can see up to 5 patients in an hour and be reimbursed about the same as for an office visit.

In the virtual world, patients need doctoring 24/7. The ability to go online and see a few patients whenever it's convenient frees you to work when you want. Have insomnia? You could watch old reruns of House on TV or augment your income by videoconferencing with patients online until you're ready to get some sleep.

Seeing patients online helps you control what you earn. Some doctors log on for an hour at a time. Others work scheduled shifts; the rest of the time, they see patients in the office or hospital. Some doctors like videoconferencing with patients so much that they choose do it full time. But most do it on a part-time basis, experts say. It's an extension of their practices, not a replacement.

This is also a way to grow the patient base in your office. Patients seen online often need to come in for a personal visit. An online patient is free to choose whomever he or she wishes, of course, but if it's geographically practical to see you in person and you've already developed an online relationship, you're a logical choice.

"Many physicians are already moving in the direction of greater automation without realizing it," Linkous observes. "Take laboratory results," he says. "You start by calling in and entering a number and get voicemail access to lab results. That's one step in the continuum. Another step is being able to go to a site where you can download a PDF file of your lab results. The next step is to provide an article or some sort of written explanation of what the results mean. And then, all of a sudden, you offer patients the ability to make an appointment online."

From this perspective, videoconferencing, secure email, and other ways to communicate remotely with patients, are just the next steps in a natural evolutionary arc, rather than being radical departures from how you practice now.

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