Telemedicine eases work-life balance for solo practitioner, adds revenue stream
With value-based care on the rise, the adoption of digital tools is rapidly progressing, yielding better diagnoses and outcomes.
Today, most physicians know some form of digital transformation is essential to their future. Yet adopting technologies like telehealth continues to become more daunting, especially for small practices. HIMSS Media research found that digital adoption, including telehealth, is a top priority for healthcare professionals, but thus far, fewer than 10% have executed a full digital strategy.
“The problem I faced was one of work-life balance,” said Dr. Scott Jensen, a solo practitioner. “My practice, Jensen Family Medicine, is based in Queen Creek, Arizona, which is a three-hour, 166-mile commute from my home in Lakeside, Arizona. I am committed to my practice, which I opened 12 years ago with my wife Debra. However, I am also dedicated to my family and our home in Lakeside, which is an ideal place for my wife and I to raise our seven children, five of whom are currently home-schooled.”
"Practicing telehealth is a great way to build and maintain strong patient relationships, increase provider satisfaction with their career and add a new revenue stream."
Dr. Scott Jensen, Jensen Family Medicine
Seeking a way to achieve a better work life-balance, Jensen decided to explore practicing telemedicine. After some comparative research, he decided on telehealth vendor Medici’s HIPAA-compliant app because of its attractive interface, ease of use, and ability to quickly and easily exchange text messages with patients – a feature patients love, he remarked.
With the goal of spending more time with his family in Lakeside, he adopted the telemedicine app in the summer of 2019. He selected the app because it would enable him to connect with patients via text message, calls, live video conferencing or photo uploads using nothing more than his smartphone and the app.
“Two other attractive features that drew me to the app are its translation function, which has the potential to help me better connect with Spanish-speaking patients, and its collaboration function, which enables me to invite specialists and other clinicians to join me in consulting with patients,” Jensen explained. “Prior to adoption, I also hoped the app would help me increase patient satisfaction through the convenience and cost savings of telemedicine.”
There are many vendors on the market today offering telemedicine technology, including American Well, GlobalMed, MDLive, Novotalk, SnapMD, Teladoc, TeleHealth Services and Tellus.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Jensen said the app is very easy to use. He receives a visit request alert, opens the app, taps the phone screen, and begins his patient visit. He observed that patients love that he conducts virtual visits because they are now able to obtain care whenever and wherever they want. They typically consult with him from their homes or workplaces.
Medici is integrated with several electronic health record systems, including DrChrono, CareCloud, athenahealth, Kareo, and Allscripts. The partnerships enable Medici to seamlessly import new users into the HIPAA-compliant messaging app and virtually connect them to their providers at any time, from anywhere.
“The greatest benefit of adopting telemedicine has been increased patient satisfaction,” Jensen reported. “I can’t stress enough how, from the patient perspective, nothing beats the convenience of obtaining care from your home or office. No need to worry about transportation or taking time off of work.”
Virtual visits also are a great deal for patients, he contended.
“That is because most insurance companies recognize that increasing telemedicine utilization is a key to reducing overall health system costs, so they encourage its use by making it much more affordable than office visits,” he explained. “So far, about 800 of my patients have opened Medici accounts to do virtual visits.”
Telemedicine also has helped Jensen find a more healthy work-life balance by enabling him to designate Mondays as “virtual care only” days, which allows him to extend his weekend at home with his family while also seeing patients.
“I meet with patients all day from the convenience of my home office,” he said. “In general, routine and straightforward cases work best for telemedicine – ear infections, rashes and colds are some of the most common.”
Jensen also saves a lot in travel time and fuel. Telehealth calculators have shown him that a teleworker in Arizona with an average round trip commute of 50 minutes saves close to $15,000 a year in oil and gas and wear and tear on the vehicle. His commute time is triple that.
“In terms of finances, I am very easily able to offset the $150 monthly cost of the app,” he noted. “I bill patients $27 for a five-minute consult so I easily cover the entire cost with about 30 minutes worth of consults. On a Monday when I am practicing at home, I typically see five patients per day. On a typical day in the office, I see about 26 patients in-person and four virtually.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
“Practicing telehealth is a great way to build and maintain strong patient relationships, increase provider satisfaction with their career and add a new revenue stream,” Jensen advised. “Unlike many solutions that purport to increase physician productivity and financial stability, a strong telehealth solution should require no up-front technology investment – just a monthly fee.”
Patients love that they have convenient and cost-effective access to the doctor that they already know and trust, allowing them to avoid the ER or urgent care center, which would cost more and take much longer, he added.
“From my perspective, one big advantage of telemedicine is the ability to handle routine cases with a quick and easy virtual visit, which frees up my office visit time for the more complex cases,” he concluded. “When I do have a more complex case and the patient can’t make an office visit, the telehealth app’s collaboration feature makes it easy to draw on the expertise of colleagues by inviting them to join the consult, but only with the patient’s permission.”