May 6, 2022 11:00:00 AM | 8 Min Read

The Resurrection of the Independent Physician: Why Physicians Should Be Leading Transformation in the Healthcare “Gig” Economy

The Resurrection of the Independent Physician: Why Physicians Should Be Leading Transformation in the Healthcare “Gig” Economy

During the pandemic we saw significant growth in the implementation and use of Telehealth, due to both necessity and diminishing government restrictions. According to the American Medical Association, greater than 60% of physician practices are now using Telehealth, compared to only 16% in 2018. With a global Telemedicine market estimated at $55.9 billion, physicians who want to start economically viable virtual practices will need to start shifting from the previous corporate employment model to one that puts them in a more independent position.

Physician for Sale

It is estimated that more than 70% of physicians currently work as employees of healthcare companies, rather than owning their own practice. Physicians often join corporate practices because they desire career and financial stability, but they also believe that they should still be able to deliver patient-focused, compassionate care within their practices. The sad truth is that most healthcare companies are owned by large private equity and other business ventures - that value profitability over the health or well-being of their physician employees and patients they serve, leading to a reciprocal decline in the health and well-being of physicians and patients. 

In a corporate model of healthcare, which includes many Telehealth companies,, patients are viewed as customers and the valuable training of providers is often discounted in an effort to promote customer satisfaction. This can often be seen in the fact that many Telehealth companies focus on a very specific prescribing mandate, either for medications or tests, and the providers are disciplined if they fail to comply. This corporatization of healthcare has led to the erosion of patient trust and is driving declining patient health outcomes.

In this financially driven model, physicians are more likely to suffer from burnout because they find themselves: 

  • Working for less per encounter 
  • Seeing more encounters in less time (the average visit is now down to just 18 minutes or less per patient)
  • Ordering more tests,  because they have less time to talk to patients.
  • Having to comply with corporate patient care standards, rather than those based on evidence  

Unfortunately, by failing to ensure continuity of care and treating each booking as a separate transaction - rather than matching patients and providers who have a previously established relationship - this model of healthcare does nothing to promote the physician-patient relationship.

In many of these companies, the specialized training and expertise of the physician are disregarded, and in this model, physicians are asked to produce, rather than diagnose and treat. The physicians’ value is calculated in patients seen and prescriptions dispensed per hour,  and the physicians are paid accordingly or let go for failure to comply.

Based on their experience working with Telemedicine in corporate practice, it’s no wonder that many physicians find themselves questioning the value for themselves and their patients.

Valuing Yourself

In the past five years, there has been a significant increase in the number of new Telemedicine companies looking to recruit and hire physicians for one-time patient engagements or gig work. Many of these companies are looking to corner the market on care within a specific niche e.g. women’s health and fertility, LGBTQ+ care, or occupational health, to name a few. 

These Telemedicine companies are looking for physicians with a specific skillset and the ability to provide patient-centered care over the long term. However, as early start-ups, they may be struggling to come up with the financial resources to pay full-time staff physicians. The result is that physicians are left trying to piece together a side hustle of various Telemedicine applications, without a way to organize their gigs or create a path towards full financial independence.

ViTel Health can help both providers and Telemedicine companies find a win-win path forward, by directly matching physicians with vetted Telehealth companies for gig work in our Vitel Access marketplace.

Rather than joining a medical group, physicians who choose to work with ViTel operate independently within our cooperative practice model. Within the cooperative, physicians can:

  • Determine their own value by selecting their preferred rate for reimbursement
  • Choose either a per encounter rate, with or without a base on-call rate, and/or an hourly rate for scheduling patient appointments 

And, within the cooperative, clients can view physician availability and pricing, and choose which physician to book for the gig based on their qualifications, as well as the cost. 

This model also benefits the Telehealth companies who chose to become clients of ViTel Health. Clients can immediately book physicians within the platform for the openings they have available, rather than wasting resources by keeping physicians on as full-time employees or having a staff that can provide 24/7 on-call care.

The reason clients can immediately book and connect with physicians is that ViTel Health is simplifying the hiring and credentialing process. Our platform provides physicians with easy-to-use, block-chain-based storage for their credentialing information. They can then choose to either directly forward these digital credentialing packets to clients for verification or save time by having the credentialing and certification done (ahead of time) by ViTel’s own in-house credentialing partner. 

When a physician owns and validates their own credentials through a third party, and stores this verification within the secure blockchain, it creates trust in the credential verifications process.

We even provide physicians with a platform and client-specific training, so they can learn new skills in digital health delivery and apply them directly to patient care within these specialty platforms. This ensures that both the physician and the client feel comfortable with the physician’s skills in order to treat their patients as individuals, and removes the need for companies to “audit” (i.e. micromanage) physician-patient interactions.

Join the Collaborative Economy

The American Medical Association recently published an article stating that “one in five physicians say it is likely they will leave their current practice within two years” and the New England Journal of Medicine states that greater than two-thirds of physicians would not choose to practice medicine, if they were able to choose a career again. The percentage of physicians who are dissatisfied and ultimately leaving medicine is even greater for women, with about 40% going part-time or leaving medical practice completely within 6 years of graduating from residency. Most of these physicians cite that not feeling valued is the number one reason they would leave their current practice setting, while others continue to struggle with stress and burnout, especially in the years of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Many physicians would love to create their own practice, with greater autonomy and impact, but most cannot see a way forward. Between the cost of student loans and the up-front costs of starting a practice, it seems impractical, if not impossible, to go it alone.

ViTel’s membership-based physician cooperative model can solve many of the cost-associated problems that keep physicians stuck in their current practice settings. In a cooperative, the cost of resources can be shared by all participating physicians, leading to reduced costs for all members, while still retaining autonomy and independence in a digital health practice. 

A large and diverse group of specialists can all gather, consult on patients, network, make referrals, and drive improved outcomes for patients. This will lead to a transition of care back into the hands of those who are most equipped to deliver personalized and local care – the physicians. Physicians can also choose how they would like to be reimbursed in this model, with multiple passive and active revenue streams designed to promote the maintenance of health, rather than just the treatment of disease.

The resurrection of the independent physician is not just inevitable, it is integral to improving health outcomes and preserving the trust that patients place in their healthcare. Physicians need to be empowered with digital tools to bring true HEALTHcare to patients now and ViTel is the one-stop solution for physician independence and empowerment in the digital age.

If you are interested in learning more connect with us today and join The ViTel Health revolution.

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Topics: Telehealth, Physicians

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