Are you looking to start a telemedicine business? Right now is your best chance to open one! The basic purpose of Telemedicine is to provide ease and comfort in the receiving of medical services.
Many patients find it difficult to reach out to different medical practitioners and get their help with their medical concerns. Even if they make an appointment, the long wait time demotivates them from getting the medical assistance they need. 53% of people admit to leaving a scheduled appointment because they had to wait too long.
Furthermore, there is a major concern of people from rural areas not having access to medical care. They either live too far or have a shortage of doctors in the area. This means that these people are at a disadvantage and cannot access medical care. Instances like these show a gap between patients and practitioners that hinders medical assistance.
If you look at recent times, the Pandemic has left the world in shambles and forced us to think about how we do things. Many people did not receive proper medical care due to unprecedented difficulties.
71% of people commented that they were fearful of going to a doctor as they could contact Covid’19 physically. This shows that people, for some reason or the other, find it difficult to go to a doctor and get the help they need.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a business that uses information technology to communicate and provide healthcare services remotely. There are different aspects to Telehealth, which include:
1. Providing Virtual Appointments
Not everyone can go to a hospital and physically take a doctor’s appointment. In this case, telemedicine helps patients get the medical attention they need in the form of a doctor’s appointment without having to move from their place. With Telemedicine, they can take virtual meetings and address their medical concerns.
2. Prescribing Medicines
The practitioners available online can prescribe medicines to their patients without them having to come to the doctor at all. This makes it easier for patients to address their health concerns and get the medication they need.
3. Collection of Healthcare Data
It is crucial for patients to collect and store their healthcare data. With the help of telehealth, these patients can have someone else record and maintain their data for them. That includes food diaries, sugar levels, and other records. The recorded data is then available for the practitioner to view.
4. Patient Portal Communication
Telehealth allows patients to communicate with their practitioners and get solutions for their health concerns.
13 Steps To Start A Telemedicine Business
The scope of Telemedicine was strongly recognized with the outbreak of the pandemic. People were either too hesitant to get medical help or failed to receive it due to an influx of people who had already contracted the virus.
Telemedicine is not just a concept but a necessity. It is a solution that can help patients get assistance with their medical conditions swiftly and smoothly. What’s more, patients won’t have to travel far to meet with a doctor or take out time from their extremely busy schedules so they can get help for a medical problem they have been ignoring.
According to 40% of Millennials, there is a pressing need for Telemedicine, and the numbers will only continue to grow in the coming times.
Since there is a lot of scope for the telemedicine business, many people are looking into starting one of their own. Below, we will discuss a step-by-step procedure and all the necessary details you need, to learn how to start a telemedicine practice.
- National provider identifier
- Employer identification number
- Office space
- Business bank account
- DEA registration
- Enrollment and credentialing
- HIPAA compliant audio-video software
- Medical billing
- Privacy concerns
The first and foremost thing you need to understand is that you cannot start a telemedicine business without having the right type of certifications. You will have to reach out to the medical board of your respective state to learn about the certifications you require for starting your telemedicine practice. You cannot start your business unless and until you complete the necessary certifications.
The next thing you need is the right licensing. To operate a business, you need to have a license from the state. You can contact a licensed agency to learn about the license you might need. That said, you must keep in mind that it can take some time to process the permit. In most cases, people have to wait for six months. However, some states have removed the license restrictions, while some have also introduced temporary licenses that you can get within 7-14 days.
3. National Provider Identifier
To start your telemedicine business you need a national provider identifier. This number is a government-issued 10 digit number that is only awarded to health care providers so that they can provide health care services. If you wish to start providing healthcare services through the telemedicine platform you need the national provider identifier that you can usually get for free.
4. Employer Identification Number
The next in line is the Employer Identification Number. This number is a requirement for all those who wish to operate as a business. It also caters to sole-proprietors and planning to start a telemedicine business.
You can get the Employer Identification number by reaching out to the IRS. To get the number, you do not have to go there personally. Instead, you can also get it over the phone. It usually takes up to 7 days to get your EIN.
5. Office Space
Once you have all the necessary documents in place you can start looking for an office space. That said, having physical office space is not a must and you can operate the entire business online.
But, it would still be a good idea to invest in an office space as you will be able to carry out your operation on a larger scale. Since the patients will not visit you, you can initially hold off working on a dedicated workspace.
6. Business Bank Account
To open a business bank account, you will need a Tax ID from the IRS. If you do not opt for a business account, you can choose an individual one. For that, you will basically need your social security number.
No matter which bank account you opt for, it is essential that you set up direct deposits. Your patients will not be able to send checks and would prefer to send direct deposits. This will make things a lot easier for you , ensuring you do not have to spend time and energy going through the different checks. Many medical insurance companies also prefer to have the facility of direct deposits.
Starting a telemedicine business demands a lot of responsibility. There can be instances of malpractice, and you need insurance for that. Before starting the company, you need to look up the best malpractice insurance available. Malpractice insurance is a professional liability that protects healthcare providers from suits by patients.
You can go for two different insurances, claim-based coverage and occurrence-based coverage. If you have the budget, you must opt for the occurrence-based coverage, which can be a bit more costly but will surely repay you in the long run.
8. DEA Registration
You must have a DEA registration to earn the right to prescribe medicines. You can apply for the registration on their website and provide all the necessary documents for the application to process.
9. Enrollment and Credentialing
You need to be an authentic medical practitioner to start your telemedicine service. This is why you must get your educational documents verified. You can get it done from here. They will need you to fill out an application while they process everything. Besides physician credentialing, you will need to have Medicare credentialing.
10. HIPPA Compliant Audio Video Software
CMS initially demanded telemedicine practitioners fulfill audio and video software requirements. However, because of the spread of Covid’19, the restrictions have been removed. Now you do not have to use particular software.
You can make do with whatever is available and convenient for you. It is also not necessary for you to have a video calling option. Instead, you can provide telemedicine services through audio calls.
11. Medical Billing
Since this is a proper platform for medical health services, you are expected to cater to medical health insurance holders who will require a medical biller for that. A medical biller is important to submit claims for patient reimbursement.
If you are just beginning, you can outsource the medical billing. Doing so will also help you save time as you will have lesser things on your plate to worry about. If you choose to outsource, you can make the claiming procedure quicker.
After doing the groundwork to kick start your telemarketing business, you need to promote your services. If you do not market your services, your audience will not know about them, which means no business.
To be able to attract users, you need to market your services. If you don’t have the experience or the right knowledge to market your services, you need to contact a marketer who can help come up with different solutions to attract the audience.
Social media is undoubtedly one of the best platforms to market your services as billions of people use it. What’s more, it is comparatively easy to use these platforms as they already have marketing campaigns in place that you can make use of.
13. Privacy Concerns
Another thing you need to consider when starting your telemedicine business is a guarantee of privacy. Your medical platform will collect sensitive data, and it is your responsibility to provide security to your patients while ensuring their information is not misused. All telemedicine practitioners must comply with HIPAA law and ensure data encryption so that patients feel safe when providing their sensitive information.
How To Start A Telemedicine Practice On The Right Foot
1. Define the goals before starting a telemedicine business
Having clearly defined goals and objectives before starting your telemedicine practice sets you up for success right from the start. What exactly are you looking to accomplish by setting up your telemedicine business? What purpose does telemedicine solve in the bigger picture?
The benefits of telemedicine are multifold. Increase in revenue, improved flexibility, improving patient satisfaction levels, increasing the geographical reach and reducing wait-times and no shows are all worthwhile goals to pursue.
Defining the goals from the outset helps set up measurable KPIs to determine how successful your transition to telemedicine is.
2. Decide between existing market solutions and a custom telemedicine app
There are a number of telemedicine apps available in the market for you to choose from. However, having a custom building a telemedicine platform ensures that the software ticks all the right boxes for your practice.
Since it is designed specifically for your requirements, you can have your healthcare development partner incorporate features to overcome your unique challenges, rather than relying on generic prefabricated platforms.
Whether you want to have a solution that seamlessly integrates with your existing EMR system or want a standalone platform, custom development offers you all the flexibility that you need.
Telemedicine platforms include both, the real-time video conferencing solutions as well as store and forward telemedicine solutions. Majority of the commercially available telemedicine apps only cater to the real-time telemedicine.
If you plan on including custom features such as specialist referrals or storage and transmission of medical data, custom built telemedicine solutions are the way forward.
When looking for a partner to develop a telemedicine platform, it is best to keep the following in mind.
- Ease of operability for both patients and the providers
- Intuitive user interface design for low learning curve and enhanced user experience
- PHI safety and compliance to HIPAA regulations
Another advantage of having a custom built telemedicine solution is that it can be designed to integrate with your existing clinical workflow. Your processes do not need to be given an overhaul when you adopt telemedicine for your medical practice.
Arkenea, a telehealth app development company, helps medical practices and healthcare organizations develop their custom telemedicine apps. Get in touch with us for a free quote.
3. Determine the service utilization plan
How does telemedicine fit into the bigger picture? Do telemedicine visits completely take over your conventional practice or do you have specific time-zones for telemedicine consultations?
Since there is no predefined blueprint for telemedicine adoption, there are no wrong answers here. You can tailor an approach that meets your unique requirements and come up with a telemedicine utilization plan customized to your needs.
You can use telemedicine to offer consultations during the time when your clinic is primarily unavailable. Conversely, you can also block off certain periods of time during the normal schedule to offer only telemedicine consultations.
You can decide to go all the way and focus solely on telemedicine visits or limit its usage only for follow-up consultations. The choice is completely in your hands.
4. Involve your staff early on
Healthcare facilities seldom function in silos. If you are planning to transition to virtual care on a full time or part time basis, staff involvement is mandatory. Having the team by your side during the initial phase can turn out to be a great resource when defining the program. Staff that is involved in the setup stage is much more likely to be invested in its success.
Train your team member to transition to a virtual setup to ensure a satisfactory experience for your patients while guaranteeing seamless operations internally. Your team members should have the skills and knowledge for troubleshooting and resolving the commonly occurring issues that may potentially arise.
5. Research the state policy for starting a telemedicine business
State laws, payer policies and reimbursement rules for telemedicine vary greatly from one state to another. In the absence of a uniform national policy for telemedicine, individual state parity laws need to be taken into consideration when setting up a telemedicine business.
According to Elizabeth Westbrook, government relations advisor at the law firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, “Healthcare and health IT are regulated, not just by the federal government, but by state governments as well.Not only can state laws vary wildly, but many states have licensure laws that actually prohibit or at least hinder healthcare delivery across state lines where clinicians have not attained certain credentials or corporate structures have not been appropriately established. So anyone looking to launch a telehealth business needs to consider the laws of the location(s) in which they will launch and whether their business will be tenable in more than one state.”
Cross state licensure is another crucial aspect of telemedicine that you need to consider. Almost all states in the US require the practitioner to be licensed within the state before that can cater to the residents of that state. So if you are planning to offer your services across the state borders, knowledgeable of the regulatory requirements is an absolute necessity.
The legislations for streamlining healthcare delivery through telemedicine are also underway. The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act is designed to expand telemedicine services by removing geographic barriers and expanding the list of telehealth-eligible providers.
The Telehealth Enhancement Act will promote not only Medicare but also other federal telecommunications programs through expanded telemedicine coverage.
6. Read about the insurance and reimbursement rules
How do I get paid for telemedicine visits? Would telehealth consultations be covered under the patient’s insurance? These are some of the common questions that plague healthcare providers thinking of launching a telemedicine business.
Just like the regulations, insurance company policies also vary from state to state. The regulatory and reimbursement landscape is constantly evolving and with the coronavirus pandemic having driven telemedicine to the mainstream, a number of initiatives by CMS, medicaid as well as private insurers to get telemedicine visits covered under health insurance are underway.
7. Stay on top on privacy and security considerations
Healthcare data is subject to stringent privacy and security protections. If your telemedicine platform collects, stores and transmits protected health information (PHI) in any form, you need to ensure that you stay compliant to the HIPAA law.
Encryption of data, choosing a HIPAA compliant cloud service provider to host patient data, signing BAAs (business associate agreements) with all partners are some of the things you must do to stay compliant under HIPAA.
Choosing a healthcare development firm that is well versed in HIPAA regulations and follows the best practices to ensure safety of PHI is the way forward when developing a telemedicine app for your practice.
8. Don’t miss out on the marketing
Unless your patients know that availing telemedicine services is an option for them, they won’t choose that option. Marketing and raising awareness about your telemedicine business is something that health practitioners usually miss out on.
Leverage the potential of multiple marketing channels to maximise your reach. While word of mouth marketing may spread organically, digital marketing can prove to bring in great response.
Announce the launch of your telemedicine platform on your website, blog and social media channels to make sure that the message reaches your patients, both existing as well as the future ones.
9. Collect the feedback and implement it in your practice
Gathering feedback from the patients as well as the employee is an opportunity to let you improve upon your services, ensure patient engagement and employee satisfaction. Insights obtained from both these groups can be implemented into your telemedicine workflow.
Don’t forget to measure your progress against the goals you had set up in the beginning of starting your telemedicine journey. As management guru Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured, gets managed”. Knowing how far you’ve come on your journey will help in continuing what you’re doing right and improve upon the things you may be getting wrong the first time.
Choose The Right Development Partner To Start A Telemedicine Business
The technology partner that you pick can accelerate your chances of success. Relevant experience in the field of healthcare software development is a must. Additionally, they should be mindful of compliance and regulatory requirements in the field of healthcare.
Focus on user experience and level of support during and after the development of your telemedicine platform is also something that you need to consider.
With 10+ years of experience in developing custom healthcare software across a range of segments and numerous success stories in the portfolio, Arkenea checks all the boxes you should be looking for when choosing a software development partner for your telemedicine business.
Ready to talk about your development requirements? Contact us for a free consultation today.