Oncology, Ob/Gyn, and psychiatry – these specialists send me the most emails asking if there is telemedicine for specialists out there. The answer is yes but since we are talking about healthcare, nothing is straightforward.
There are mainstream telemedicine platforms – what the industry refers to as direct-to-consumer telehealth platforms, or D2C or DTC, which hire specialists. Nurx is a common one for those with an Ob/Gyn specialty. And Ro hires psychiatrists.
If you wait a little longer you’ll see more telemedicine for specialties popping up. Regardless of your specialty, there is a need for you to be online in some fashion. That’s because many of my specialist colleagues perform knowledge work even if they are surgeons or proceduralists.
As a GI doctor, you do a lot more than colonoscopies. As an orthopedist, you can manage patients preop and postop, even if you didn’t perform the surgery.
As a general surgeon, you can offer consultation on possible surgical options. You can offer advice on wound care and virtually round on patients.
So here is the thing – you won’t have the same income doing telemedicine as a specialist compared to your traditional practice. This is true for most but not all.
I know of an orthopedist and an ophthalmologist who are earning fat dough online focusing on very, very niche topics. Pretty brilliant. As to not put them on blast, imagine if you only offer advice on styes or how to rehab ACL tears. Yea, lots of money in that – who woulda thunk.
As a family medicine doctor or ER doctor, it’s easy to replicate my income just by seeing patients online. Patients go online for quick fixes and want to avoid long waits.
As a specialist, you are earning a lot of money because you generate a lot of money for a hospital group. Until the healthcare reimbursement model changes your online income will be on par with a primary care physician.
Where to Find Work
Telemedicine is really new even if you think it’s mainstream. We are still figuring out the regulations and what constitutes a patient-doctor visit.
You can search your specialty on any job board and instead of a location select ‘remote’. That often will bring up jobs which you can hold in your specialty while working remotely.
You can reach out to telehealth companies in your specialty and submit an application even if no job is advertised. Be prepared to apply for other state licenses – that’s the game these days.
If you have a certain passion you can certainly build out your own niche telemedicine practice. If you want to manage only vaginismus you can have a site built out for under $500 and rent telemedicine software for $150 per month.
Forgoing the Income
The option of telemedicine for specialists is new and it’s rather unique. Imagine if you are stuck living in someplace next to a particular hospital. That’s … depressing. Unless you love what you do in which case you probably wouldn’t want to change anything.
The option to work remotely, to be a digital nomad physician, is something you’ll have to make a sacrifice for. If you expect to make the same $500k a year working for a telemedicine company online I think that’s a stretch.
If you build out your own company I think it’s quite possible to make that kind of money. But now you’re a business owner which many specialists who contact me don’t want to take on.
Starting Your Own
Other countries are doing the same – starting specialty telemedicine services online. This one is a Derm site in the Philippines.
It’s not like whatever site or service you start has to make you a millionaire right away. It might take a few months or years to build it out but it can be worth something great in the future.
Don’t hesitate to hire a PA or NP to run the cases for you while you are still ramping up. That’s a great way to create good workflows for common cases – especially if you’re doing a niche specialty telemedicine practice.
Joining up with Another Practice
You might have homies who are specialists and have busy practices already. Maybe you got some rheumatology friends who would love to get their fibromyalgia patients off their panel or at least into a virtual service to manage their pain or fatigue concerns.
It’s on you to figure out what you like the most or what’s the most lucrative and pursue that. But you don’t have to go find your own patients. Pkenty of your specialists friends likely have patients they could offload to you.