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Is Telemedicine Changing the Way Physicians Do Business?


Last year, a staggering 51% of surveyed primary care physicians said they were using telemedicine to compete. With the growing expectation for more virtually connected care among patients, it’s no surprise.

The growth of large consumer-focused telemedicine companies, like Teladoc, have introduced patients to the advantages of getting quick medical care online — and shown them how simple it can be. And as more insurance companies and retail clinics go the same direction, the pressure on traditional health systems and practices will only go up.

With these trends in mind, we’re predicting that telemedicine will cause a few major shifts in the way physicians are approaching their business. Many of these are already in full force in the medical space.

Integrating mobile health tools.

Often the first step in moving towards a telemedicine model is incorporating mobile health tools into your practice. That could mean simply recommending patients try out Fitbits or handing out a remote monitoring tool to heart patients.

Many physicians are already trying these tools out. A recent AMA survey found 85% of physicians think digital health tools are beneficial to patient care. And another report found about half of healthcare providers surveyed are planning to use mobile health apps in their practices within five years.

Approaching a consumer service model.

While there’s something to be said for continuing to see the patient as “patient” and not “consumer,” the healthcare industry has been increasingly shifting towards a consumer-service model. Concierge medicine practices, which often offer benefits such as 24/7 service, house calls, and telemedicine, are growing. Retail clinics are also rapidly expanding to absorb patients who can’t get quick access to their doctors, or want to avoid the wait.

Many of these new business-focused models are using telemedicine to offer convenient care. Adding telemedicine visits to a traditional medical practice is one way to keep up with this trend.

Getting more metrics focused.

While healthcare has always been concerned with outcomes, the shift in recent years towards more value-based care and meeting Meaningful Use requirements has arguably made the industry more metrics-focused. Now that patient outcomes are more closely tied to reimbursement, there’s a greater push to incorporate services that improve outcomes in a measurable way.

Recent studies on telemedicine have been with an eye towards how virtual services improve outcomes, whether that means improving treatment adherence, making follow-up care more accessible, or avoiding unnecessary hospital readmission.

Taking medical practices online.

With the integration of online patient portals, practice websites, mobile health tools, and telemedicine visits, many practices now have both an in-person office and “virtual clinic.” The increasing adoption of telemedicine software by health systems and independent practices will speed up this pattern.

In the next decade, a medical practice manager might be managing the patient queue within both the physical office and a virtual one.

Responding to burnout and work-life balance.

By now we’ve all heard the bleak numbers — physician burnout is 40% or more across a wide range of medical specialties. It’s a trend that’s hard to fight with all of the changes and new pressures in the industry.

But some doctors see telemedicine as a potential ticket to better work-life balance. Instead of staying late at the office, they’re doing video visits from home. Or they’re closing down the office a day or two a week and simply seeing patients online those days.

The telemedicine revolution is here and many healthcare providers are changing the way they do business because of it. Where does your business fit in?


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