Video Visits With Patients Can Now Boost Your Bottom Line

Neil Chesanow

Disclosures

August 06, 2013

In This Article

Choose When, Where, and How Long to Work

You can add telehealth services to your practice in gradually escalating degrees of sophistication. For example, if you have a simple Website with basic information on your practice but without the ability of patients to interact with you online, you can start by adding the ability to make online appointments. You might follow that with the ability to ask a question via secure email. And so on.

Although it's possible for an individual practice to offer videoconferencing capabilities, it's expensive and unnecessary. It's simpler -- and requires no investment -- to work with a telehealth vendor via an insurer (or possibly more than one) where you are empaneled that offers the service to members.

There are scores of telehealth vendors. Each of their systems has a different design, but each makes it easier for you to start providing telehealth from wherever it's convenient: your office, your home, the baby room, or the den.

One is MDLive, a telehealth vendor in Sunrise, Florida, which has partnerships with hospitals, employers, insurers, physician groups, and Accountable Care Organizations in 50 states to deliver telehealth services and will be responsible for over 3 million covered lives as of January 2014. The firm has a cloud-based "Virtual Medical Office" software platform "that makes it possible for patients, providers, and plan administrators to collaborate seamlessly and securely via voice, video, email, and mobile devices," says CEO Randy Parker.

There are 2 ways to become part of the MDLive system, Parker explains. One is to be a member of a payer, hospital, IPA, or physician group that already uses the system. If you're interested, contact the appropriate medical director about getting involved.

You can also work for MDLive directly on a part- or full-time basis, which about 2000 physicians across the country currently do. You must be board-certified, a standard requirement. You also must also receive certification from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), which the firm handles as well. In addition, you must be licensed in your state and the states of the patients you see, if they are different. Having multiple state licenses is not a requirement.

Training Isn't an Extreme Burden

Attending "MDLive University" is a must. If this evokes unpleasant memories of going through electronic health record training, put your fears to rest. It consists of video tutorials and a 3-hour course that you take online at no charge.

"Our physicians train you to appropriately provide telemedicine services when interacting with the customer. It requires what we call 'desktop manner,'" Parker says.

MDLive's physician panel guides you through best practices for telehealth. "They also train you in how to use the technology," Parker says. "We take a lot of time making sure that physicians are aware of how important it is to interact with patients as physicians did 50 years ago, except that this is a virtual house call."

The process, from expressing interest to seeing patients online, takes 4-6 weeks.

As an MDLive physician, you download an app onto your tablet, smartphone, or PC that automatically connects you to the MDLive network. There you can view patients in the system at that moment who are in the states in which you are licensed to practice, and they can view your profile. Patients choose you, but you can be selective about whom you accept to see. Click "Connect," and a visit begins.

If the patient is using a wireless biometric device -- "the system is compatible with hundreds of devices, from stethoscopes to glucose monitors to blood pressure cuffs," Parker says -- you can review its data. If the patient needs a prescription, an eprescribing module lets you send a script to the patient's pharmacy (excluding Schedule II drugs). If a personal visit is in order, you can offer your services or the patient can choose someone else. Ditto for specialist referrals.

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