Why Doctors Should Be Thinking About Telemedicine (Hint: Business)

Real-time video communications is spreading like wildfire now that just about everybody has a smartphone and a cellular data connection. Individuals are connecting visually with Facebook and WhatsApp, businesses are delivering better customer support and supporting field workers with video chat, software developers are building real-time communications into video games, and an increasing number of devices are making our lives easier thanks to new communications functionality.

Doctors also are jumping on the real-time communications bandwagon. The savvy doctors, at least.

Telemedicine technology represents a big opportunity for medical practice revenue growth. There are at least five ways that doctors can benefit from the telemedicine that well-integrated real-time communications enable. Here’s how.

  1. Reduce Appointment Cancellations

Between 5 and 7 percent of all medical appointments are no-shows, according to MGMA Consulting. That can hit the bottom line of a medical practice.

Telemedicine helps cut this volume of missed appointments, for the right patient encounters, by reducing some of the common reasons that patients skip their appointments. If an appointment is happening via video conference, things like traffic, an inability to escape from work and trouble finding a babysitter are non-issues. Further, medical practices can easily call patients who might have forgotten an appointment and quickly get that appointment back on track instead of needing to reschedule it.

  1. Improve Patient Flow

When patients meet with doctors over video chat, new worlds of schedules open up. Patients can be queued and more efficiently fitted into an appointment schedule with telemedicine because there’s no need for patients to arrive at an office at just the right time.

Instead of the pressure and inefficiency that comes from queuing people in a physical waiting room, telemedicine appointments can be scheduled more efficiently than when patients must physically be on-premise, which can include calling patients back when ready if Doctors’ schedule change.

This equals more revenue from seeing additional patients and not wasting doctor or patient time.

  1. Monetize After-Hour Appointments

After-hour consultations and emergencies in the middle of the night have not typically been billable. This changes with telemedicine, however, because off-hour work can be “on-demand” appointments that are billed like regular appointments.

Further, real-time communications help doctors add hours flexible and comfortably from home. When you can see patients from home and in the margins of your day, it is easier to fit in more income-generating work without additional strain.

  1. Add New Patients

Patients want telemedicine and the flexibility of meeting with a doctor in their home when this is appropriate. Nobody wants to schlep into a doctor’s office when they’re feeling sick or in pain, and few people like the inconvenience of waiting to see a doctor for a minor issue or question. Roughly 75 percent of patients surveyed by Software Advice in a recent study indicated they would be interested in telemedicine appointments—especially for minor medical issues.

This is an opportunity for doctors looking to build their practice because telemedicine is an attractive service for most “on the go” patients. It also signals that a medical practice is state-of-the-art and current with the latest healthcare advances.

  1. Keep Existing Patients

Along with attracting new patients, offering telemedicine also helps doctors retain their existing patients.

Roughly 71 percent of emergency room visits are unnecessary, according to a recent study by Truven Health Analytics. Patients use emergency rooms largely because they cannot reach their primary care physician when they have a medical concern. With telemedicine options, however, medical practices don’t have to hand these patients off to emergency rooms or clinics because after-hour consultations are much easier.

In addition, telemedicine is convenient and delivers a satisfying healthcare experience without the typical patient frustrations of long wait times, scheduling issues and travel. Happy patients are good for business, and telemedicine makes life easier for patients so they’re less likely to go elsewhere for care.

Telemedicine is not just for big hospitals, either. Even small medical practices can establish consultations through video chat with easy-to-use cloud-based video and voice technologies. Agora.io makes it easy for medical applications to embed real-time video in existing health portals, websites and mobile apps. A developer can quickly embed real-time communications functionality into an app or web page and be assured that this is reliable with premium quality, no matter the patient’s device or connection, through our use of an advanced global network and mobile device optimizations.

Medical practices of all sizes can offer their patients telemedicine, and more are doing so by the day. It is good for patients and also smart business for doctors.