Telemedicine apps and services make it easier for independent docs to offer virtual visits

Independent practices may lack the infrastructure to launch wide-ranging telemedicine programs, but new apps could open the door for more physicians to offer virtual visits.

Telemedicine services like HealthTap and American Well are increasingly catering to physicians in private practice that want to conduct virtual visits, according to an article from Medical Economics. Docs can also enroll in networks that offer commercial telemedicine visits if they want to make a little extra money through virtual consults.

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After applying to the service, doctors will be asked to complete a credentialing application and some telemedicine training. Once they’re official participants, physicians can net $25 or more per virtual visit, which can be performed in their spare time. Docs that are licensed across state lines can offer visits wherever they’re licensed, too, according to the article.

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Joseph Kvedar
Joseph Kvedar, M.D.

Some doctors note, though, that offering telemedicine programs does not exactly streamline their day-to-day practice.

Joseph Kvedar, M.D., vice president of connected health at Partners HealthCare in Boston, told Medical Economics that regardless of whether a patient is physically present in the exam room or connected via a video feed, the amount of time it takes to provide care is the same. 

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Physicians like Ami Bhatt, M.D., a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, who have been able to incorporate virtual visits, have found high patient satisfaction with them, according to the article.

That said, there's no consensus on the effectiveness of telemedicine—For every pilot program that finds success with virtual consults, there is another study questioning the costs or benefits to patients.

Rural patients in particular have taken to telehealth, as it makes it easier to reach people who live in more remote areas, with significant cost savings to rural facilities. Specialists have also embraced the trend, as it allows them to connect with patients more quickly.