Telemedicine Is Disrupting Insurance Companies - How Physicians Can Set Up Their Practice to Take Advantage!
As I talked about recently, telemedicine is a rapidly expanding mode of medical practice, since it allows physicians and other health professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients remotely using telecommunications technology. If you don’t already have such a system in place you should set this up because it’s becoming an increasingly important part of the American healthcare system.
The advantage of using this approach is that a patient gets to "see" his or her doctor on line either via chat or video conferencing, so doctors can use telemedicine with both current patients or new patients as an alternative to in-person visits. The benefit for patients is they have less time away from work and no travel expenses or commute time. They have increased privacy and no exposure to potentially contagious patients. And they don’t have to worry about their in-person visits interfering with their child or elder care responsibilities.
At the same time, the many benefits to physicians include increased revenue and improved efficiency at their offices. That’s because these visits are relatively short, so a doctor can see more patients per hour than in the office. There is no overhead, no staff, and very minimal paperwork. Additionally, doctors can better follow-through with patients and have fewer missed appointments and cancellations because patients can’t make it to the office.
So telemedicine is a win-win for both doctors and patients, resulting in more convenient medical care. As “The Ultimate Telemedicine Guide” points out:
“Today’s connected patient wants to waste less time in the waiting room at the doctor, and (wants to) get immediate care for minor but urgent conditions when they need it…Increasingly, telemedicine is becoming a way to give medical practices an edge in a competitive healthcare landscape where it’s difficult to stay independent or maintain a healthy bottom line.”
Yet, while more and more doctors are using telemedicine, it’s not clear what insurance companies will cover. But whether they cover it or not, the good news is there are financial benefits for the doctor either way. Here’s why. The patient pays no more for an online visit with a physician than for a regular office co-pay, which is typically around $30 or $40. So with or without insurance, the patient is still going to pay that same small amount. So why the middleman? With telemedicine, the insurance company as a middleman is no longer needed.
And that’s a good thing, because it’s time that physicians take control!
For years, insurance companies have dictated what doctors can charge and what doctors get paid. But telemedicine can change all that, because patients can easily pay physicians directly what they would normally pay anyway without the need for the extra expenses and additional paperwork that comes with the insurance bureaucracy. Just consider the huge charges that patients have to pay when the cost of their visit and treatment goes through their insurance system - commonly hundreds of dollars of additional charges for a simple visit, far beyond the much smaller amount actually paid to the doctor. This is all really unnecessary!
That’s why, in short, healthcare insurance should become obsolete with telemedicine.
Instead, physicians should work closely with tech companies and already established platforms that will help them employ telemedicine in a secure, safe, and complaint manner.
Ironically, physicians still need a telemedicine platform even if the patients seek to pay with their insurance, since that’s what they expect to do. So insurance companies are currently very much in the mix. But they don’t have to be if patients can be educated that they don’t need and shouldn’t have to use their insurance for a telemedicine visit. Then, they can pay the doctor directly and there is no need for unnecessary $30 to $40 co-pays and additional charges, all of which result in big profits for the insurance companies.
It’s time that physicians get paid what they deserve directly using a system that makes seeing patients more convenient and efficient for regular visits.
And in such circumstances, it's time for insurance companies to leave them alone. They serve as a middleman not needed or wanted by doctors or patients.
It’s just a matter of educating doctors and patients to them to see this.
Alexander Lakowsky, MD MBA
With more than 14 years of clinical experience in medicine, Dr. Lakowsky is an internal medicine physician running his own private practice in the SF Bay Area, creating a thriving professional medical environment that is advantageous for both doctors and patients.
After seeing a lack of business understanding among medical professionals in the various practice settings in which he worked, Dr. Lakowsky founded Reimbursement Rx to help physicians better understand how they get paid and to teach them how to navigate the complex business side of medicine to maximize quality patient care, compensation, and job satisfaction.