From the effects of a global pandemic to shifting patient attitudes towards online care, more and more physicians are choosing to take their practice virtual. What is virtual healthcare? When patients provide medical care through video conferencing, telephone consultations, or other forms of digital meetups, they are offering virtual healthcare services that patients can take advantage of for more flexible, convenient, and remote medical care.
Advances in virtual healthcare that allow for more physicians to work from their laptops means many doctors are taking advantage of the ability to work anywhere, and virtual healthcare trends show that patients are just as interested – a recent paper by the Canadian Medical Association suggests that while only 1 in 10 patients have tried virtual healthcare, 4 in 10 would try it if it were available.
While you probably won’t be taking your entire practice online, shifting some of your time into virtual care can help you grow your patient list and save you time. So what are you waiting for! Here are 10 reasons you might be ready to take your medical practice virtual.
1. You Want More Flexibility
One of the reasons many physicians take on a virtual healthcare practice is for the ability to set their own hours and work on their own time. Even for physicians operating out of a traditional practice, offering virtual healthcare services can provide more flexibility for you to come into the office late or leave early – something that can be important for physicians with young families who may be coordinating daycare pickups or after school activities. One of the benefits of virtual healthcare is the ability to make time for these little ‘life emergencies’ while still being able to see as many patients as possible, so if you’re looking for more flexibility, going virtual might be for you.
2. You Have Specialized Knowledge
If you’re a medical specialist or you work in a niche field of medicine, your typical appointment might involve spending time communicating with your patients before sending them off for testing or to a surgical procedure. While physical portions of the visit are better off done in-person, you can easily move the discussion to a virtual setting. Some specialists – like psychiatrists – can see a high demand for virtual services for these reasons, and can easily provide them through digital means.
Although physicians in Canada are urged against providing care outside of the country, the CMA’s Virtual Care Task Force is in favor of expanding virtual medical services so physicians across Canada can serve patients across provincial and territorial lines. While this is not yet the case, it is excellent news for specialists in the future, whose unique knowledge can better reach patients who need it if physical location is no longer an obstacle.
3. You Want to Work Remotely
If medicine is your passion but you’ve always dreamed of living on the beach, virtual healthcare might be for you! One of the benefits of offering virtual healthcare services is that you can take them anywhere – while currently physicians in Canada must see patients only in the provinces where they are registered, there’s nothing stopping you from working outside the country while you do it. Even if you don’t intend to make living on the beach a permanent part of your lifestyle, providing virtual healthcare services is a great way to go on extended vacations, try out different locations, or visit family abroad – all without discontinuing your practice in Canada.
4. You Want to Be Your Own Boss
Working remotely can be a great way to transition between working for an employer and opening your own practice. If you want the flexibility of being your own boss without the financial responsibility of acquiring office space, equipment, staff, and computer hardware, opening a virtual healthcare practice is a great way to test the waters by using what you have. Providing virtual healthcare services through a company like Maple or a similar platform where patients are matched to a virtual physician in their province will let you see what it’s like to take on patients and bill for your time outside of an employer-owned practice, without the ‘big leap’ of the initial investment.
5. You Want to Spend More Time with Family
One of the most obvious perks of working virtually is the ability to turn your home into your office. While this might not seem as glamorous as working on the beach, one of the benefits of virtual healthcare services is the ability to spend more time with your family and balance your lifestyle and home with your work. It may be as simple as leaving the office a few hours early to work from home, taking a half day, or mixing in-clinic workdays with days where you work from home. Even if you stick to your regular hours, the lack of a commute to the office will save you valuable time which could be better used with your loved ones.
6. You Want to Offer More Convenience
For patients who are at risk during cold and flu season, have difficulty driving or getting to your office, or have other restrictions on their mobility, offering virtual healthcare services is a great way to make things easier on both of you. Whether you work with immunocompromised patients, seniors, or children, these patients might appreciate a virtual option that lets them see you from the safety of your own home. In addition, younger patients in particular are seeking out virtual healthcare options that would allow them to see their physician with the same ease as they’ve come to expect from other services. If you own your own practice, it may be worthwhile to offer these services on a trial basis, to see if there is demand – you may be pleasantly surprised!
7. You Offer Routine Services
Specialists aren’t the only ones who can benefit from taking their practice virtual. Family doctors or other physicians who have quick visits with basic questions – for example, patients needing to renew a prescription, get contraception, or other require other services where a lengthy visit is not required – can benefit from taking these appointments virtual. This benefits both you and your patients – you’ll have access to all the flexibility that comes from going virtual, while your patients will benefit from being able to handle their needs from the comfort of their own home.
8. You Want to Streamline Your Routine
If you often find yourself running late or leaving patients waiting, having virtual appointments can be a great way to keep things on schedule. This, of course, depends on the reason for the appointment – sometimes long conversations with patients can’t be avoided, and running late is inevitable. However, research on virtual healthcare trends shows that using virtual healthcare services to fill gaps between patient visits can improve physician productivity and free up space for exam rooms – allowing you and your clinic to serve more patients overall.
9. You Want to Meet Your Patient’s Needs
The same CMA initiative on virtual healthcare trends suggests that while 63% of patients would like to be able to email their physician, only 24% of family physicians offer this service. Similarly, while 41% of patients want to be able to have video visits with their doctor, only 4% of family care physicians offer this service. Patients in the digital age are increasingly demanding more personalized care, and the easier they can connect to the physician handling their medical questions, the better.
10. You Want A Higher Quality of Life
Research on physicians who work remotely suggests that the ones who offer virtual healthcare services are more likely to feel satisfied in their work/life balance and less likely to experience burnout. This has been repeated in many different studies and across many different physician scenarios. No matter whether you’re a solo practitioner or a specialist in an employer owned practice, one of the benefits of virtual healthcare services is having more time for you!
As we creep into an increasingly digital age, more and more patients are seeking access to virtual healthcare services. From seniors to young families to young people, virtual healthcare trends show a Canada-wide interest in going digital for their medical concerns – and if you’re curious about using telemedicine for your own practice, it might be the perfect time to take the leap!