If you've decided to implement telehealth into your medical practice, you know that decreased costs are not far away. Using telemedicine frees up valuable in-office time, keeps things running quickly and gives you the ability to see patients on their schedules.
According to a 2014 study by Dale H. Yamamoto, the estimated savings per commercial telehealth visit are $126, using $50 as the baseline cost per visit for patients. That's a lot of money saved!
But what you charge patients is going to vary based on your practice's needs. For example, at eVisit, we have providers charging anything from $45 for a 10 minute visit, to $400 per hour, with the average visit charge being about $60.
But to truly understand the return on your telemedicine investment, you need to decide what to charge for telemedicine services.
Now, we're assuming here that you're practicing telemedicine as a cash service. Insurance reimbursement is a whole different story--and don't worry, we have plenty of resources if you have questions on that!
Many of our providers are offering telemedicine as a cash service and having patients pay directly. Make sure you protect your practice by creating a waiver form for telemedicine services that requires patients to sign to say they're choosing not to use insurance for telemedicine. From there you're good to go and ready to set a price for your telemedicine services!
1. Consider the technology
Depending on your practice needs and the telemedicine platform you choose, your initial technology costs could be higher. When deciding what to charge patients, think about the equipment you're using for virtual visits. Did you invest in upgraded routers, specialized cameras or a whole new practice management system in order to start using telehealth? If you're a physician providing remote consults, did you switch to a more mobile exam tool (such as a dermatoscope or new monitoring system)? Consider these costs when you're figuring out what to charge patients per visit. A very small equipment fee accounted for in each patient's bill will make up your investment quickly.
2. Survey the competition
Determine what you charge for telemedicine based off why your patients are seeking it out. Because telemedicine is focused on convenience, look at patients' other quick-care options as a guide for competitive price setting.
For instance, if you're a family practitioner and you'll likely be diagnosing colds, sinus infections and UTI's on a regular basis, find out what your local urgent care center or retail health clinic would charge for a similar service. Consider where your patients would go if they didn't have the option of telemedicine, and consider what will make a video call worthwhile. What would the patient's cost be if they were treated in-office? Factor in the cost of things like travel and taking time off work.
According to the Boston Globe, a study from Harvard Medical School determined the average doctor's visit costs patients $43 in lost work time. Consider this potential cost when you're setting your telemedicine visit costs, and also make clear to patients what they're saving in time and energy by visiting the doctor virtually!
3. What conditions are you treating?
This may be the most important thing to consider when you're creating your telemedicine billing standards. Who are you treating, and what conditions are you primarily working with? If you work with several chronic care patients, for example, you may want to create a subscription plan for patients you consult regularly via telemedicine. If you're a specialist, you may charge a higher fee based off your normal consulting costs. And if you work in a field that doesn't usually monetize follow-ups, such as orthopedic surgery, you may be seeking compensation from sources you never tapped before.
Before you start using telemedicine in your practice, think critically about the learning curve your staff will have on new technology, what your state's laws will mean for reimbursement, and how your patients will most benefit from the new service.
Telemedicine is a great investment, and once you get the kinks worked out, you'll see the impact on your practice profits!
If you're using telehealth in your practice already, we'd love to hear from you!
How did you decide what to charge for telemedicine?