Charting Your Career Path as a Telemedicine Physician
The burgeoning field of telehealth may seem too out of reach, but more physicians than ever are making the lifestyle change to this career path and you can too. Find out how.
The work-from-home lifestyle is no longer a luxury restricted only to the creative class. Family physicians, urgent care doctors, OB-GYNs, and other physician specialties can all take advantage of new laws and technology advancements that facilitate remote medical practice. Whether you are looking for supplemental income or to transition to a more flexible career, now is the right time to explore a career in telehealth.
Read on to discover what a telemedicine career looks like, find out what experience you need to become a telehealth physician, and learn how to find your dream job in telemedicine.
What is a Telemedicine Physician?
A telemedicine physician provides remote patient care through virtual communication channels - either live via video consult, telephone, or online chat, or at a later time through written communication. Telemedicine physicians are often licensed in multiple states and work for a telehealth company like Doctor on Demand, MDLive, or another patient-facing telehealth platform. Telemedicine physicians can treat common non-emergency health conditions like flu or ear infections, help manage chronic conditions and pain, monitor prescription medications, provide mental health counseling, or work in specialty fields like obstetrics and gynecology. Telemedicine physicians can work part-time or full-time.
How much do telemedicine doctors make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average telemedicine physician salary in the United States is $216,958. Some telehealth companies pay by the hour with pay averaging between $100 and $150 per hour. Other companies pay per consult, averaging about $15-30/video consult and about 3-5 consults per hour.
One great perk of telemedicine is that pay isn’t typically affected by where you reside, but by where you are licensed. Some state licenses like Texas, California, and New York can garner higher wages due to the sheer number of patient volumes and higher patient demand for service. As you embark upon a career in telemedicine, it’s important to consider getting licensed in as many states as possible (many telemedicine companies will help you with this).
Do telehealth physicians get benefits?
If you work full time for a telemedicine company you may be eligible for benefits just like in a traditional office practice. Health insurance, 401Ks, sick time, PTO and vacation, bonuses and other standard company benefits can all be part of the compensation package for telehealth providers. Be sure to ask your recruiter about this when interviewing for telemedicine jobs and evaluating employers.
What skills do I need to practice telemedicine?
Practicing telemedicine is similar to practicing traditional medicine. Following best practices of good bedside manner are still important, as are learning how to convert your bedside manner to webside manner for telehealth visits. Fundamentally, telehealth providers need to be comfortable with basic technology, taking calls and interacting with patients over a computer, and asking patient questions that can help diagnose without a physical examination. Good communication skills are key to a successful career in telemedicine.
Do I need special training to work in telemedicine?
Outside of medical school and residency, no special training is needed to become a telemedicine physician. Telehealth companies provide training on how to use their technology, but if you can use Skype you are halfway there.
How to Become a Telemedicine Physician
Telemedicine physicians require the same education as traditional doctors: a bachelor’s degree, a doctorate or professional degree from medical school, and then residency practice. After residency, doctors will need to take medical exams for licensure and some may choose to get board certified by taking the board exams.
In addition to schooling and certification, physicians should try and practice for at least four years outside of residency before beginning in telemedicine. This meets the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) credential, which sets the gold standard in hiring requirements for the top telehealth companies. Sometimes you can find a telehealth job without four years of experience, but it won’t be as easy and may not be as lucrative. The best telehealth companies look for physicians with a few years of clinical experience under their belt. This is also good for you as a telemedicine provider, as the lessons from in-person patient interactions can be invaluable.
The importance of multi-state licensure and compact states in telehealth
The more licensures you have as a telemedicine provider, the more valuable you are. Many of the more populous states like Texas, New York, Florida, and California have a higher need for telemedicine physicians.
Another strategy is to get licensed in a compact state. Compact states are states that have identified as part of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact - an organization with the aim of making multi-state licensure more accessible and expedited. Getting licensed in one of the 24 compact states makes it easier to get licensed in the other compact states. This process is still tedious and can take time, but a reputable telehealth company should be able to help you navigate this process - and the wait is worth it if you plan to work in telemedicine long term.
For more information, read our guide to multi-state licensure for telemedicine physicians.
Finding the Best Telemedicine Companies for Physicians to Work For
One of the key benefits of working in telemedicine as opposed to an in-office or hospital practice is the flexibility to work for multiple companies at a time. Most telehealth companies don’t have non-compete clauses for independent contractors, so you can work with a few and see what you like best.
What to look for in a telemedicine job description
You can learn a lot about a company simply by reviewing the telemedicine job description. If the listing doesn’t answer a few basic questions, be sure to ask the recruiter or hiring manager about the following:
Volume. Likely the most important measure of good telemedicine jobs. You don’t want to be sitting at your desk idly waiting for patients. Ideally, you will have a constant flow of remote patients for the hours you are scheduled to work.
Payment terms. What is the pay structure (per consult, per hour) and how will you get paid?
Shifts. What and when are the minimum shift requirements? Do they complement your existing practice? Is it a short-term seasonal position or long-term? (Pro tip: Seasonal positions can be a great way to try out telehealth jobs and gain experience.)
Licensure requirements. What state licensures are required? Do they help secure credentials if you don’t already have them?
Malpractice and credentialing support. Reputable telehealth companies should provide malpractice insurance and provide support throughout the credentialing process.
Work From Home in Telehealth
Embarking upon a career in telemedicine is a relatively easy transition to make from practicing traditional medicine. Considering the lifestyle benefits of flexibility and being your own boss, it’s no wonder more physicians than ever are jumping at the chance to work from home in telehealth.