Review Of HealthTap For A Virtual Practice
I paid $3,588 to HealthTap in January of this year (2017) to start my own practice. I chose them because they had the least expensive entry cost and handled various aspects of a virtual practice such as insurance billing, digitally connecting to pharmacies for prescribing medications, creating follow ups and chart management.
The overall experience has been sub-par so I thought I would track my experience here for others who might want to try something similar in the future.
The HealthTap Model
Their concept is to bring patients and doctors on one massive website and hope to convince physicians to sign up for their concierge service which includes the $3,588 buy-in price mentioned above.
Patients are brought to the website when searching health related topics online. Physicians who pay the price for the concierge service can then petition patients to have a virtual visit with them to discuss their medical issues.
The concierge service is primarily geared towards those physicians who already have their own private brick and mortar clinics and want to add a virtual component.
There are only a few doctors who successfully run a standalone virtual practice on HealthTap, from what I have been told.
The Concierge Model
Once you sign up by paying the $3,588 fee you are connected with an account representative who will help setup your practice. They will help you with marketing and build your presence online to drive more patients to your practice.
You will have access to a telephone or video visit model and all documentation can be done on the website or through the phone app. It definitely appears quite streamlined on a superficial glance.
Medications can be digitally transmitted to the pharmacy and you can order labs/imaging and even refer to specialty colleagues.
There is no ongoing out of pocket expense. Instead, for every patient interaction, there is a $11 charge in order to cover malpractice insurance and ongoing support.
The fees are very straightforward and the company doesn’t try to nickel and dime you, which is very commendable.
Your profile takes center stage once you sign up for the concierge service. If nothing else, patients will see your name advertised to them based on their locale.
My income so far
I have had my virtual practice live for 3 months. My marketing has been minimal because I have been running into too many technical issues with the app.
I have made around $250 so far seeing patients. This is the income left over after HT takes out their fees ($11/visit) and their payment service takes out their fees (~$1).
My expenses so far
Besides the concierge fee of $3,588, I have spent $200 to build my own website and purchase some hosting etc.
These costs were inevitable since I have been planning to build up my own “brand” for some time.
My biggest expense has been my time. I have spent many hours trying to build up my presence on the HealthTap website and of course dealing with support to resolve technical issues.
What Has Worked With HealthTap
Their model is great, bringing patients and doctors to one area and then connecting them as buyers and sellers. It’s done in a professional manner. There are many layers of brilliant marketing on HealtTap.
Their website is very well designed and they do an incredible job of advertising. There are a lot of ways to get recognized as a physician on their site and the number of patients who end up there is quite impressive.
Getting and income of somewhere around $30 per patient visit isn’t hard to do. These are often done through their “in-basket consult” which are easy and quit text communication with the patient. These aren’t time intensive and fairly straight forward.
How HealthTap Has Failed
It’s easy to appear incompetent to a patient if any part of the visit doesn’t match the standards of care.
In medicine, no matter how intelligent and thorough I might be as a clinician, it takes one hiccup and the patient will have a poor impression of me as a doctor.
The software is the biggest problem with HealthTap, the second being support. I have had issues finding the right diagnosis, ordering the correct tests. Sending medications to the pharmacy has failed me more times than it has worked.
Sending Scripts – Failed
After I see the patient I send the script to the pharmacy and need to close the chart in order for the script to get sent. Upton closing the chart there is no way for me to connect with the patient any longer.
If and when the app fails to send the script to the pharmacy I find out about it through support and I need to call the pharmacy to correct the problem.
Ordering tests – failed
I wanted to order a urine gonorrhea test and couldn’t find it on their drop-down menu and therefore couldn’t order it.
I contacted support who agreed (thank you) that a urine gonorrhea test should be available and that they would look into it and get back to me. Nobody ever got back to me.
Entering Diagnosis – Failed
Some of the simplest diagnosis such as a URI or ankle sprain or folliculitis are either impossible to find or not available in the diagnosis drop-down menu.
HealthTap For Your Virtual Practice
When we are unable to interact with a patient in person it’s that much more important to appear competent. Even more so when you’re someone who doesn’t give out pain meds and antibiotics lightly – your patients need to be able to trust you.
With an infrastructure that keeps failing and with unreliable features HealthTap makes you look incompetent and it gives the patient the impression that they are dealing with a physician who can’t even send a script to the pharmacy properly.
A patient visit which earns you $30 that requires multiple emails back and forth with support, a call to the pharmacy and then a follow-up with the patient isn’t worth the time or money.
I sent HealthTap an email a week ago because I thought it would be in both our best interests to end the relationship. I offered them thorough and helpful feedback on everything that wasn’t working with their software and requested a return of my concierge fees.
I sent that email to the CMO and also cc’d my personal account assistant. Neither of them have gotten back to me. At this point I have written off the $3,588 which I invested into this practice.
I sent a 2nd email before writing this post and again, no response.
The money isn’t lost since it’s something I will be deducting from my income for 2017 as a business expense. Furthermore, it has been a great experience of dealing with a virtual company and practicing my marketing strategies.
What I have Learned
I had the option of working with HT on a month-to-month basis instead of paying the $3,588 up front. But for paying for the whole year up front I was offered a few benefits such as the personal account assistant.
I learned that in a virtual practice your expertise as a physician is highly dependent on how reliable your “office” is. In this case, the office is the software and the support that the patient deals with.
I learned that when choosing a virtual practice software it’s important to have fewer gimmicks and better support. If there is a pharmacy support person who can handle pharmacy issues it will greatly reduce the amount of work I have to put in correcting and problems.
I learned that it’s important to draw up contracts even when buying into a virtual practice. The contract should state all my expectations up front in order to provide a more realistic expectation for both parties.
I learned that a virtual practice is a fantastic way for me to make a decent income with very little work. Most interactions require little in terms of making a diagnosis and mostly involve dealing with patients who just need a bridge in their healthcare journey.
I learned that any company which I choose to do business with is only as good as their integrity. Fancy websites, vibrant colors and a ton of marketing emails only make for a good show. The company I choose should demonstrate that they can recognize problems, take responsibility, remedy the situation and anticipate future problems.
**On 5/6/2017 there was a refund of $2,915.25 in my account. No email explaining why, no explanation how the number was obtained. This is approximately 80% of the money I paid to them.