In this article, I’ll talk about building a virtual urgent care from the perspective of a caring and competent physician. Let’s discuss how much to charge, how to run it, and how to keep it sustainable.
Urgent care is more popular than ever, whether it’s a virtual urgent care or a physical one.
The Competition in the Virtual Telemedicine Space
From Teladoc to MDLive, many direct-to-consumer companies target patients for quick visits.
It’s no longer as lucrative as it used to be since competition is fierce. Many telemedicine companies are targeting the same patients for a UTI or URI.
The quality of care is what you’d expect, a visit that lasts less than 10 minutes and offers the patient what they seek, often medications or testing, or a referral.
Telemedicine companies charge somewhere around $50-100 per patient visit. Many will accept insurance and are often employer affiliated.
Quality vs. Cost
Fast and cheap aren’t sustainable characteristics of any service unless it’s some government bureaucracy. The AAA is an excellent example because otherwise, you’d be stuck at the DMV.
In healthcare, when it comes to your health, you want a thorough and individualized service. This comes at a cost premium, obviously.
You can buy an Ikea sofa or one from Crate & Barrel. The difference is apparent, and you are getting what you pay for.
A High-Quality Virtual Urgent Care
The high-quality urgent care will attract a more informed consumer. They are searching for what is best for their health and are less concerned about getting what they want.
These days, if you want a particular antibiotic, you can call nearly any telemedicine company, and the physician will likely oblige.
In this elevated urgent care model, you get plenty of time with the patient. The client can express themselves without any rush. And they can trust that you know what you are talking about.
The visit cost is intentionally high to detract the Ikea/Starbucks shopper.
Building a Virtual Urgent Care
Building your virtual practice yourself is pretty satisfying. But there is help if you need it.
1. Cost Per Visit
Anything less than $200 wouldn’t be sustainable in the US, but your particular situation may vary.
We’re talking about a fee-for-service model, which is the same as cash. No insurance.
$225-250 should be a sustainable cost per visit. Something a value-aware patient can afford and keep you interested.
The visit can be 30 minutes long with ongoing support, which I’ll discuss below.
2. Telemedicine Software
I like Akute Health which I have talked about on my YouTube channel.
You can start for $50 per month and add more features as you grow. This is great for the physician starting out.
If you want something fancier for $300 per month, you can go for Atlas.MD.
Word of mouth should always be the primary way you advertise. This means offering solid care to each patient so that they spread the word.
Level 2 marketing involves writing searchable online content. I can write about UTIs and headaches, and diarrhea.
Level 3 marketing should reach out to local specialty clinics and advertise your services.
You can list your fee-for-service practice with many websites such as Mira or Sesame.
4. Patient Selection
When you start, 80% of the patients find you will not be the right fit. If you enter a patient-doctor relationship with these individuals, you are creating a headache and end up with a dissatisfied customer.
As you grow and adjust your online presence and content, 50% will be a good fit. And eventually, most people who find you will be ideal.
The way to screen individuals is to start the visit and refund them or cancel the visit if you cannot offer them much value.
5. Hiring Support
A virtual medical assistant these days won’t cost you more than $15 per hour. Perhaps they are from the Philippines or they are from the US.
There are many MAs who are looking for part-time or flexible work.
Once there is enough income to warrant such support for your virtual urgent care, you can hire an MA.
Expect to go through some growing pains. Learning to hire and manage an employee takes time and skill.
6. Patient Access
You see a patient for a UTI, and they now have blood in the urine. How do they reach you?
I want my patients to feel supported by me. I want them to get back to me anytime they need to. An email, a text message, or a patient portal message is ideal.
I want my patients to tell their friends they can reach their doctor anytime.
Overnight messages can go to a call center with RNs, or your MA can be in a different time zone for full coverage.
7. Malpractice Insurance
Expect to pay as little as $2,500 and up to $5,000 per year for malpractice insurance coverage.
I would argue that you may not need coverage early on unless you live in a state where malpractice coverage is mandatory.