For physicians who are interested in doing telemedicine this post will give you a little insight into how telemedicine works; I’ll share with you my telemedicine workflow for this particular telemedicine company. I wish I could tell you which telemedicine company I’m writing about but they have contacted me and asked me to remove their name from my blog.
Another thing I like about them is that it’s not all cold and flu even though we are in cold and flu season. I’m sure it has to do with how this telemedicine company markets to consumers.
I signed on as a per diem which means that I can log whenever I want and see patients for however long I want.
This flexibility is incredibly helpful and one of the best parts about Company X. There are no shifts and no time commitments.
There are both scheduled appointments and patients who are in queue for the next available doctor. There are mostly telephone visits and a few video visits which most providers try to avoid.
Accepting A Patient
I log on to the website, I click ‘lock’ and the next available patient pops up. This then becomes my patient until I end the visit.
Alternatively, physicians can log on and lock onto a patient who is requesting an appointment for later in the day or even the next day.
Telephone vs Video
Telephone visits are popular with the doctors because those are snagged up right away.
When you clock in, you can clock in for both video and telephone or just telephone. It’s obvious that most doctors have no desire to do the video visits – those just pile up.
I discussed in previous posts that live video visits are likely not the future wave of telemedicine. Recorded video and image sharing might be – but live video is clunky, time-consuming, and serves no clinical purpose.
With OR, WA, and CA, there are more than enough patients during the busy months. I haven’t been with Company X long enough to know what the summer volumes are like – but I always have the option of getting credentialed in another state.
During the mornings and nights, there are often 3-10 patients waiting in the queue.
It takes me on average 5.5 minutes per patient. The longest visit was 25 minutes with a guy who was taking notes and that was my mistake for letting it drag out that long.
My shortest visits are in the 2.5 minute range – often for medication refill requests.
The Company X software has an integrated prescription window. No need to call the pharmacy, no need to open a separate software – it’s really intuitive and one of the best ones I’ve used so far.
You can create a QuickRx for yourself for the most frequent meds you prescribe which will populate your directions and preferred dosages.
Company X has one of the easiest platforms for physicians to navigate and is quite reliable.
They have an iPhone app as well if you prefer to do everything from your phone. I have used this quite a bit and it’s very functional.
Since most of the consults are by telephone it’s quite easy to talk to the patient on the phone and simultaneously take notes on your laptop and even check on medications or diseases on Up-To-Date.
The video platform goes to an external website and it’s probably the least efficient platform I’ve ever come across. The video is odd because sometimes the patient has to be on their phone to hear the audio, the transmission quality is too low to see any details, and the prescribing software is nearly impossible to navigate.
In order of the most frequent complains, this is what I deal with on Company X:
- Acute sinusitis
- Cold and flu
- Vaginal candidiasis
- Muscle strain
- Fever in children
- Medication refill request
I find the patients on Company X to be quite easy-going and though most want antibiotics, I don’t think it’s any different from what I see in an office or on other platforms.
Patients are surprisingly open to conservative management but that’s really only the case with my WA and OR patients. The CA patients aren’t quite that simple.
Patients are offered this telemedicine service part of their insurance package and seem to love it. I’m still seeing a lot of patients who are using this service for the very first time but there are quite a few who have been using it since 2010 – that’s impressive.
I get no drug seekers. No opioid seekers. No benzo seekers. No Viagra seekers. No work note seekers. This telemedicine company must do a very good job at screening such patients so that they don’t end up on my schedule.
Credentialing as a Per Diem
I’ve written about the interview process with this particular telemedicine company and the credentialing process was just as painless.
It only took a few weeks but their email communication was a bit inefficient. Apparently I had to reply to one of the emails I received to confirmed that I had received it in order to gain online access.
2 months later, after looking through my emails, I discovered this email, replied, and got access the next day.
Company X Support
There are a lot of emails and text messages where Company X support will ask you to help out. I don’t want to say that this is annoying because the team is doing their part to get patients seen and if you’re in it for the money then it can’t hurt to be told about possible opportunities.
Patient related issues are handled quickly but inefficiently.
The 2 times that I reached out to Company X for help, the intervention that was offered was ineffective or counterproductive. One time the patient’s prescription never got sent in and the other time the patient I called wasn’t available and needed to be rescheduled.
There is an email where you can contact provider relations for provider related issues.
I emailed them one time to let them know that one of the states I was licensed in wasn’t listed and if they needed the help I’d be happy to see patients from that state as well. 1 hour later that state was added to my profile and I received an email confirmation.
The second email I sent was to inquire when providers are paid and how we can check to make sure that we are paid correctly for the number of patients we see. That email went out 4 days ago and I still haven’t received a reply.
Here is a brief summary of my workflow and I’ll lay it out in more detail in the following paragraphs:
- setup my laptop, phone, bluetooth headset
- open the telemedicine window, pre-populated Google Docs window, and a Google Docs dictation window
- lock onto the next available consult
- talk with the patient as I take notes in Google Docs
- dictate my note into GDocs, cut and paste
- order medications
- close encounter and lock onto the next consult
Timing My Shifts
I have picked 2 peak times to handle telemedicine calls with this particular company – in the morning when I wake up and at night before I go to bed. There is a peak at around 8am PST and again around 9pm.
I am licensed in 3 West Coast states which gives me more than enough consults to do no matter when I log on.
I have my $800 MacBook in front of me with the Chrome Browser opened on Company X. I have my cell phone connected by bluetooth to my $500 headset and I dial *67 and the number that comes up for the patient and begin.
In the future, I’d use a background noise-cancelling headset that’s wired. These can be purchased for less than $100.
Confirm the patient
I first have the patient confirm their state and DOB which is 99% of the time accurate. If not, I cancel the visit and have them contact customer service.
To confirm the patient I click through a few questions confirming that I confirmed all the important data (I love this idea). And then I get taken to the C.C. and Symptoms screen.
Most of the time I don’t know why the patient called so in order to not waste time fumbling for a CC or Sxs which won’t populate in their dinky search, I open Google Documents and take notes as the patient talks.
Google Documents Dictation
Google Docs is your best friend. I have a screen open with pre-printed “physical exam” stuff and I have another Docs screen open where I free-type everything and later dictate off of my notes.
When the patient is talking I just free type. Because GDocs has a feature to auto-correct, I am much more efficient at typing the patient information into that window instead of the tiny little screen on Company X.
After I hang up with the patient I dictate my ‘Plan’ and I can tell you that GDocs will blow Dragon Speak out of the water in terms of its efficiency.
Then I highlight my text, cut, paste and I’m done.
I’ll talk more about how awesome their Rx software is. It’s native in Company X so you don’t have to use a separate software.
Both OTC and Rx meds are on there and many things come with the proper dosing and frequency populated which is a big time saver.
I have a saved list of common meds which I prescribe: Tamiflu, Diflucan, Meloxicam, Macrobid, Tessalon, Triamcinolone, Amoxicillin, Doxycycline, Bactroban, Baclofen.
Update: This telemedicine company sneakily baited me with a $28.50 per-patient income offer letter and after reviewed the many documents I signed there is a part that states I get paid $23/patient for telephone visits and $28.50 for video. I won’t update the numbers in this post but I’ll add that at $23/patient wouldn’t be competitive enough and I would turn to JustAnswer and another telemedicine company (whose name I also can’t mention) for more lucrative options.
As a per diem clinician I get paid $28.50 ($23?) per consult. I have no idea how often and on what dates the paychecks come because this information isn’t available on their website nor have I been able to obtain this information from provider relations.
The first direct deposit I received was on a Tuesday on the 16th of the month. I got paid $953.00 which doesn’t make sense with a patient payout of $28.50 per patient.
I am fairly certain that the income is a 1099-MISC for independent contractor work but hopefully I’ll know for sure once I can get in touch with the right people.
Patients Per Hour
It wouldn’t be wise to shoo the patient off the phone but efficiency matters because you are paid per patient you see. Which is why I complain about having to waste a couple of minutes on finding the right words to fill in the autopopulating fields.
I can see somewhere around 7-10 patients per hour which comes out to $199.50-$285/hour.
The reason I’m able to have a higher volume is because I don’t waste excess time on patient verification issues, I move through the software quickly, and I dictate. It’s also important to provide as much information to the patient as possible – this decreases the number of questions they will have and moves the conversation along faster.
If you’re willing to put in 2.5 hours a day then it should be fairly possible to see 20 patients in that amount of time – that’s $570 of gross income per day or $16,000/month.
My Gripes With This Telemedicine Company
There are a lot of calls where the patient doesn’t pick up the phone.
Company X wants you to leave a VM so you have to wait for the rings, wait for the greeting, and then either leave a VM or find out that they don’t have their mailbox setup or that their mailbox is full.
You don’t get paid for these empty calls.
No Chief Complaint
When you click on a patient there is often no information as to why they are being seen which slows down the documentation.
It’s smart, however, because they don’t want doctors picking and choosing. You don’t see the gender, age, and often don’t see the CC.
No Live Image Sharing
Once you begin the call with a patient there is no way for them to upload images. So if I ask for a picture of a part of their body that they are talking about then I have to cancel the visit and have them submit a new consult and upload images.
CC and Sxs
The Chief Complaint and Symptoms fields need to auto-populate – no free typing text.
I think the CC can be written in if you select “Other” but the Sxs has to autopopulate which is really tough because I can’t read the computer’s mind.
Even worse than CC and Sxs is the diagnosis field which of course has to be from a list of ICD-10 diseases. There is a search function you can use but that opens another window and isn’t much better than the native Company X search.
This is a common issue with any new platform and fairly easy to get used to especially since the same complaints pop up.
The volume of patients is solid. I haven’t had to waste time being online without any patients which was a big problem with American Well.
I really enjoy the caliber of patients who come online. They are grateful, they have simple complaints and generally quite agreeable.
Difficult patients or those who don’t know what to expect will slow down the workflow. Hopefully this company will continue to do a great job of filtering patients.
I love, love, love the Company X prescribing window. It’s so easy to select the right medication and often the right dosing and frequency is also filled in. This makes it incredibly efficient to make it through the workflow.
Solid Phone App
The phone app is shockingly well designed and really helps in an efficient telemedicine workflow. I am not sure how big this telemedicine company is but man, they have their softwares down!