A Physician’s Guide to Adding Telemedicine to Their Private Practice

Telemedicine isn’t new – but for many patients, it seems that way. Research shows that telehealth is being used nearly 40 times more than it was before the pandemic. In fact, half of those surveyed said they had used telehealth during the pandemic, most often to avoid in-person contact. 

That trend isn’t expected to change: 3 in 5 surveyed said that they actually plan to increase their usage of telehealth services into the future. 

The global industry of telemedicine is set to reach more than an already staggering $130.5 billion in the next three years. If you haven’t considered expanding into telemedicine, now is the time.

There are several benefits to launching your own telehealth practice, among them being the ability to expand your care, increase your patient base (and income), and see higher rates of patient satisfaction. 

Before you launch your own virtual offerings, there are a few things to know about getting started in telemedicine.

How to get launch your own telemedicine service

Determine how you’ll use telemedicine in your practice

It’s important to first identify your goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Perhaps you’re ready to grow your practice, increase your access, or earn extra income?

Next, determine the type of services you’re prepared to offer. This could be video visits, telephone calls, secure messaging, or remote patient monitoring.

Finally, figure out how all of these elements fit into your current practice. Here are three questions you should ask yourself:

How much of your practice will be virtual?

Consider your schedule as it is now and ask yourself what portion of it could be dedicated to your telehealth practice. If not, some questions worth considering include: 

  • When will you be available for telehealth appointments? 
  • How will they fit in with your other appointments? 
  • Does your malpractice insurance cover telehealth, and what are its restrictions or requirements?

What type of telehealth services will you offer?

Consider the various telehealth modalities before deciding to offer one or more in your practice: 

  • Synchronous visits: These are video or phone visits where you are “live” with the patient. 
  • Asynchronous: This is also called “store and forward” in which medical information is gathered from the patient, including images and/or documents as well as medical history and the history of present illness. The physician can use the information to inform their decision making. Typically with these types of visits there is not a live interaction with the patient. 
  • Remote patient monitoring: This can be a form of asynchronous care whereby medical data is collected remotely from the patient before being transmitted to the provider, such as readings from a continuous glucose monitor. 

Once you’ve determined the types of telehealth you’ll practice, it’s time to consider your services. What type of appointment types will you offer? On-demand (or walkin) or appointment only? 

Research your state’s laws

As with in-person medicine, it’s critical to understand the laws regarding telemedicine in each state you hold a license or plan to get licensed.

No two states are exactly alike in their licensing and regulatory requirements. This can make for a daunting research process, but the Public Health Institute’s Telehealth Policy Finder tool is a great place to start to conduct your research.

The finder is a searchable, easy-to-use database from all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C. The information is consistently updated and includes:

  • Telehealth-related laws and regulations, organized by topic, including Covid-19, Medicaid & Medicare, and professional requirements.
  • All current healthcare laws, including temporary Covid-19 actions and pending legislation.
  • Color-coded maps that illustrate policy trends by state and topic area.

When doing your research, there are several important things to look for and understand. You’ll need to understand the rules around: 

  • Which types of telemedicine are allowed in the state
  • Nuances regarding patient consent 
  • Malpractice insurance requirements as it relates to telemedicine 
  • Regulations around prescribing via telemedicine 
  • Reimbursement via telemedicine especially from entities like CMS.

Choose the right technology partner

Of course, you can’t practice telemedicine with a technology partner. However, it’s important to not simply pick at random – do your research and ask the important questions.

Whichever partner you use, it should:

  • Integrate with your EMR if needed
  • Comply with HIPAA, cybersecurity and state regulations
  • Offer tech support

It’s important to consider things that benefit the patient as well, such as the quality of video.

Several platforms have been created for exactly this need, including Zoom for Healthcare, Healthie, Doxy.Me and Webex for Healthcare.

Understand the costs associated with telemedicine

Of course, you can’t start a telehealth practice without an investment. After all, starting a telemedicine practice is like starting a business, and there are several costs to consider.

You can expect that most of the money you invest will go to the platform you choose to work with. Most range in price from $70 to $500 per month. Additionally, you might have to hire additional staff or buy new equipment, such as computers, webcams, or headphones.

The AMA’s Telehealth Implementation Playbook suggests outlining the cost of setting up your practice and comparing it to how it impacts patients. This could be through reimbursement, better access, or reduced no-show rates. 

There are several other questions to consider when it comes to costs. For instance, what type of equipment will you need? How will staff be trained, and are there training costs?

When properly executed, your telehealth practice will reduce costs by improving patient experience and health outcomes. Ultimately, your ROI will come in the form of the value you provide your patients and the improved rate of efficiency.

Get your team involved

Without the backing of your staff, you’ll never be able to create a successful platform. Even if you’re the only one providing virtual care, it’s entirely likely that you’ll have to get others involved to help support the telemedicine side of your practice. 

Keep staff updated on the changes, train them on the software, and include them in workflow discussions. It’s best to map out your workflow so that everything goes smoothly and everyone knows the role they play within your virtual practice. Some things to map out include scheduling, insurance verification, visit preparation and troubleshooting, and billing processes.

Create a space dedicated to telemedicine

Whether you decide to practice in your office or at home, make sure you have a quiet, separate space to do so. Hang a “do not disturb” sign on the door if needed.

The space should be built to the specifications of your telehealth practice. Purchase and set up any equipment you might need, including – but not limited to – a ring light, webcam, and strong WIFI. 

Work on your virtual bedside manner

Finally, it’s critical to hone your virtual bedside manner before you see your first patient. Bedside manner is as important on-screen as it is in-person because even remotely, it fosters trust and impacts patient health.

Work to maintain your sense of empathy, be prepared, and communicate clearly. Though you can’t be with them in person, work with the patient to create a positive relationship. There are several ways to do so:

  • Make eye contact and be aware of your body language (keep your face relaxed and posture proper).
  • Practice active listening so that each patient feels heard and validated.
  • Look involved by using small motions like nodding or hand gestures.
  • Explain what you’re doing so your patient knows you’re engaged (such as while reading a chart).
  • When messaging the patient, strike a balance between a tone that’s professional yet approachable. 

Telemedicine isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – it’s only increasing. Though many doctors have avoided going virtual in the past, now is the time. Not only will it help diversify your practice and increase your income, but it will also help you prepare your practice for the future and grow your patient base.


This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide financial, legal, tax, nor any other professional recommendations or advice.

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