There has been widespread acceptance and mass population demand for telemedicine coverage in urban and rural communities. Healthcare professionals too have realised the ROI potential of investing the appropriate infrastructure (be it technology, licensing and upskilling) to maintain gainful income, and to ultimately cover losses from pandemic lockdowns by generating income with a career in Telemedicine.
Telemedicine platforms follow various payment models, differing from country to country. The classic model is Fee-for-Service whereby the provider is reimbursed per virtual services on a per patient agreement, this is a common model for smaller practices or from individual providers who may be running their own direct pay (cash-based) private practices which is now going virtual with their own telehealth service. Larger institutions such as major hospital systems, have capitation contracts where their healthcare professional staff receive a capped remuneration salary on a monthly basis (irrespective of number or nature of telehealth visits) with a bonus if a certain quota is met.
Actual remuneration is usually paid by insurers and/or public funds as part of health sector budgets. Telehealth practices in such examples are the implementation partners and therefore bill their services via appropriate medical billing. To remain competitive and recuperate ongoing losses (from decreased elective, diagnostic, interventional procedures), many providers and practices usually have a hybrid payment model to accept direct pay, insurance claims and/or government grants to cover expenses – especially medical practice insurance plans, payroll, administrative costs, PR, marketing and rents. Increasing income in a competitive field (especially in healthcare) requires investment in value-based innovations in the business model and the actual high yield services to the appropriate customer.
The following 7 practical tips will help guide Doctors to integrate unique proven methods in increasing their revenue streams while still being able to provide much needed clinical services to their communities:
1- Join Major Telemedicine Groups Such companies have various payment schemes related to full-time, contractual or even part-time arrangements, with certain hourly rates or virtual visit quotas. Most provide the necessary insurance coverage to provide the necessary protection from adverse patient experiences.
2- Improve your Clinical Skills Coverage Many healthcare professionals are aware of the inherent value addition of acquiring more specialist degrees, to enhance their professional authority in a particular medical field. Such activities are often a practical (although expensive) method in gradually being able to earn more income by either increasing their consultation fees or to bill for higher rates to third party payers.
3- Increase your Professional Fees Healthcare professionals remain hesitant to increase their consultation fees, possibly due to inherent fear of negative pushback from the patient community, medical insurance providers or as is often the case, industry ignorance on value-based pricing guidelines.
4- Start your own Telemedicine Practice From the additional collapse of their usual assets (eg. rental properties); many doctors have taken the initiative to start their own online business, especially by converting their brick-and-mortar practice into a virtual telemedicine practice. Many have experienced great demand for telemedicine from their communities, but were pleasantly surprised by the potential from diaspora communities around the globe.
5- Offer Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) by Medical IoT devices Practices that have the ability to provide approved at-home healthcare services via approved RPM devices may be able to increase their revenue by selling directly to patients or by partnering with medical device manufacturers and medical insurance providers to leverage increased reimbursement.
6- Expanded Patient Coverage Networks In health systems with less stringent regulations, there is great opportunity for expanded telemedicine coverage by virtue of utilising existing smartphone communication applications such as Whatsapp, IMO and extensive social media marketing. These forms of lean virtual practices have provided much needed virtual healthcare guidance to developing countries and vulnerable populations.
7- Leverage Global Virtual Practice Platforms The platform/marketplace main functions would be in lead generation, customer management, secure digital payment processing, buyer/seller insurance, quality control and various administrative tasks for smooth seamless virtual transactions. Many such platforms exist in many healthcare systems, allowing qualified and appropriate providers to ‘display’ their credentials, availability and consultation fees. Patients may view the list of providers who are available for direct booking and consult online, via secured telecommunication platforms. Conclusion Through value-centered operations, qualified healthcare professionals can effectively establish a zero-cost virtual presence in a global digital health platform, with clear guidelines of providing specialised services that various patient populations desire, at a competitive price.