Telemedicine is the wave of the future if you like it or not. The COVID-19 health emergency is reshaping how people view healthcare delivery. So many people are staying at home in fear they will catch coronavirus. Well, people still need to be seen for various health issues. Where are they turning? Telemedicine!
Patients, right now as you read this, are seeing medical providers over their tablets, smart phones, and computers. Telemedicine businesses are BOOMING because the demand is so high. What’s going to happen is that patients will realize just how convenient seeing a provider online or over the phone is.
- No commuting.
- No sitting in crowded waiting rooms.
- No waiting in a small exam room for 45 minutes waiting to be seen.
- And it’s cheaper!
The convenience factor that patients are experiencing by utilizing telemedicine technology should not be underestimated. People have become more and more accustomed to on demand service. Online banking, Netflix, Spotify, Instagram, food delivery, drive thru, and shopping online are all on demand. Do you think healthcare should be different? It’s not, and people now realize this.
Medicare, Medicaid, and private payers are seeing this trend as well. During the COVID-19 health emergency, the section 1135 waiver granted under the President’s emergency declaration is expanding telehealth services with Medicaid and Medicare. Right now, telemedicine services do not require pre-authorizations, the restrictions on where the patient is located have been lifted, the use of non-HIPAA compliant communication technologies has been allowed, and reimbursement is the same as in-person visits. Private payers are also relaxing their rules with telemedicine.
I predict the changes will carry over once the public health emergency is lifted. Will it be immediate? I doubt it, but it will happen over a short period of time. Patient demand for telemedicine services will drive regulatory change across our healthcare system. Even if it does not, this is still an opportune time for the astute nurse practitioner entrepreneur to take advantage of.
I believe patients are going to be willing to pay cash for more and more services if they can be delivered via telemedicine. Patients want convenience and on demand service, and that is exactly what telemedicine delivers. Why go to an urgent care or primary care office, pay a $50 deductible, have their insurance billed, and spend 2 hours out of their day for a medical visit when they can just spend $45 cash and be seen within 15 minutes utilizing telemedicine? It only makes sense to go with telemedicine for various medical issues. It is more VALUABLE to the patient.
Patients can obtain lab work from a distance. Prescriptions can be sent into a pharmacy down the street or even delivered to their door! The days of having to drive to a medical office, wait around, and then drive to the pharmacy are going to become fewer and fewer.
Don’t get me wrong, there will still be a need for in-person encounters. Physical examination and the power of touch are still necessary for a wide range of medical issues, but for a common cold, rash, simple prescription refill follow up, etc., it is not.
The prescription of controlled substances also requires at least one in-person encounter per DEA regulation. During this health emergency though, that rule has been waived. Once the declaration has been lifted, the in-person requirement will take effect once again.
The Special Registration for Telemedicine Act of 2018 grants the DEA the authority to start issuing telemedicine specific DEA licenses. This will change how certain services are delivered, predominately opioid addiction treatment and testosterone replacement. We have no idea when these licenses will be available though, so it is a waiting game. Regardless, I see many of my men’s health and testosterone patients one time in person during the initial evaluation, and then I see them via telemedicine after that. It is convenient for the patient and me and is totally permitted via current regulation.
The main benefit for nurse practitioners utilizing telemedicine is the ability to practice in full practice authority states even if you live in a restrictive one. You can live in Georgia and practice 100% independently in Oregon. Very few nurse practitioners realize this, but it is true.
Another advantage nurse practitioners have utilizing telemedicine is the low overhead of a telemedicine practice. You don’t need to pay rent, payroll, utilities, general liability insurance, and other various expenses that come along with a brick and mortar practice. All you need to have to practice telemedicine is a phone, internet service, and a computer. What does this mean for the practice owner? More money in their pocket.
Telemedicine is changing the game for patients, providers, and practice owners.
If you are looking to start a niche side practice, right now is the time to seriously consider a telemedicine practice. Telemedicine is exploding with growth. I believe those that can get in on the ground floor now, will profit significantly.
If you are serious about starting a part-time side business that will increase your professional freedom and financial security, then consider opening a telemedicine practice. You do not need to pick up extra shifts for a lousy $60 an hour, you can earn real money working for yourself! Check out the “How to Start a Telemedicine Practice” course HERE if you are ready to take the next step.