Dr. Brooks used to count on a steady 50-60 patients a day at the family practice that he runs with his spouse. No longer. Even as medical practices prepare to treat a surge of people with COVID-19 symptoms, patients avoiding routine care have left small practices with empty waiting rooms and severe cash flow issues.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began, like all other medical practices, Brooks’ practice has also seen patient visits drop by up to 40 percent. Determined to keep his practice afloat during these uncertain times, Dr, Brooks has turned to virtual visits, and is now seeing about 40 patients a day online — about 70-80% of the pre-COVID-19 patients.
Bolster Revenue With Virtual Visits
Virtual visits or telemedicine is not a new technology; it’s been around for decades. However, the coronavirus outbreak has led to an increase in its adoption as never seen before. It’s an incredibly valuable tool, so it makes perfect sense that providers are showing an interest in using it.
According to a survey by Software Advice, doctors who adopt telemedicine gain a competitive advantage over those who don’t. But what’s more interesting is that even patients are starting to match providers’ enthusiasm for virtual care. The same survey by Software Advice also revealed that patients are 71% more likely to choose a provider that offers telemedicine versus one that does not.
If you’re still wondering whether you should start offering virtual doctor appointments, these numbers will get you off the fence:
- 79% of patients said that scheduling a virtual doctor appointment was more convenient than arranging an in-person visit. (Source)
- Net cost savings per virtual visit was calculated to range from $19–$121 per visit. (Source)
- 76% of US hospitals are already connecting patients and practitioners using video and other technology. (Source)
- 90% of physicians see the benefits of virtual doctor visits, especially regarding patient experience. (Source)
Offering virtual doctor visits will help in the following ways:
- Allow both doctors and patients to exercise social distancing.
- Help providers cast a wider net and provide preventive care to more patients
- The Trump administration has announced that Medicare would temporarily pay providers for providing virtual care services to patients. This will secure at least some part of your revenue.
- HIPAA privacy law penalties will not be enforced on telemedicine use, allowing you to expand care.
Real-life Examples to Encourage You
The benefits mentioned above are not theoretical. We have real-life cases to prove that telemedicine is a sensible investment for most medical practices.
One of our clients in California, a primary-care physician, is handling 40 percent of his patient appointments via video calling. Another client from Maryland has reported a significant revenue increase over the last two months through video consultations.
I’ve already shared stats about patients preferring providers who offer virtual care over those who don’t. By providing a convenient and hassle-free consultation, you will be more likely to attract patients from competitors who are hesitant to include virtual care in their gamut of services.
But one thing I’d like to point out here that could impact your telemedicine revenue.
Reimbursements for telemedicine services will depend on your state laws and whether you are billing through Medicare/Medicaid or a private insurance plan. Also, some patients might be willing to pay a reduced, out-of-pocket fee for your telemedicine consultations. I’d suggest you consider this pricing option if your likelihood of being reimbursed for specific services is not as high as you’d like.
How to tell patients that you are offering virtual visits?
Consider putting a notice on your website informing patients that you are open for business. Through your website or patient portal, get the word out on how they can schedule virtual care consultations. You can also consider sending emails and making phone calls.
Virtual care can help you fill the hole blown by the steep drop in patients’ volume. This is an “all hands-on deck” moment, and we all need to scale up wherever we can. This pandemic is going to serve as a motivation, and we have no choice but to re-discover our strategies.