Some of your patients no longer want to see you…at least, not in person. The pandemic may have initially forced the widespread adoption of telehealth, but patients and providers alike have continued to enjoy its benefits. In April of 2020, telehealth usage in the US was 78 times higher than it had been prior to March of 2020. More than two years later, telehealth usage has settled at a level that is still 38 times greater than it was pre-pandemic. Now, organizations are grappling with the many ways demand for telehealth might impact the traditional healthcare delivery model–including what it might mean for physician recruitment.
Is Telehealth Here to Stay?
The demand for telehealth is unlikely to decrease. Patients are thrilled with the time savings, and in many cases, they feel the overall telehealth experience is equal to or better than the experience of seeing a provider in person. A recent survey from a virtual care provider found 58% of clinicians said they expect virtual primary care visits to exceed in-person visits within the next five years, a prediction that bodes well for the nearly two-thirds of clinician respondents who said telehealth suits their lifestyles better than in-person care.
Despite the overwhelming popularity and undeniable benefits of telehealth, its future remains uncertain due to the still-temporary waivers allowing providers to treat patients across state lines. It’s also not clear if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will continue to reimburse telehealth appointments at the same rate as in-person visits long-term.
That said, the success of telehealth in expanding access to healthcare, coupled with the high patient demand make it unlikely that telehealth is going to fade away. So, if telehealth is here to stay, what impact will it have on physician recruitment?
1. Telemedicine Training
As healthcare organizations continue to modify care delivery to meet patient needs, it is likely more physician jobs will include some aspect of telemedicine. Medical schools are developing curriculum to train students in telemedicine, and professional organizations such as the AMA now offer resources to establish telehealth best practices.
As organizations look to hire physicians, they will increasingly evaluate if the candidate has adequate training in telemedicine. How is their “webside” manner? Are they comfortable navigating telehealth technology and diagnosing via screens? The weight of these questions certainly depends on how big of role telemedicine will play in the physician’s job, but organizations will likely place increasing importance on telemedicine training.
In a 2021 MGMA Stat poll, just 15% of medical practices said their clinicians are trained in “webside” manner for virtual visits. One would expect this percentage to increase considerably in the coming years as more and more programs become available to enhance competencies in this critical area.
2. Telehealth as a Recruiting Tool
Despite the way many were forced into practicing telemedicine, some physicians felt the benefits right away and even developed a preference for it. In the aforementioned survey, two out of three respondents said they prefer virtual-only or hybrid work. In a Jackson Physician Search whitepaper exploring the impact of COVID on the physician job market, physician recruitment leaders noted an increase in physicians seeking jobs that would allow them to practice telemedicine full or part-time. For this reason, telehealth can serve organizations as a powerful recruiting tool.
Anecdotal evidence suggests physician job ads referencing telehealth in the title receive more interest than those without, so if the role you are hiring for will require or allow for the physician to practice telemedicine, make sure to feature it prominently in the job ad. Be sure to ask your candidates about their interest in telehealth, and if it is of particular interest to them, aim to include some number of telehealth days per week into the offer.
3. Telehealth in Physician Onboarding
Organizations will increasingly aim to find physician candidates with training in the practice of telemedicine, but even if they do, these new hires will still need to be trained on the organization’s telehealth technology and protocols. Thus, at the organizational level, telehealth training will become an essential part of physician onboarding.
Incorporating telehealth training into the onboarding process will ensure providers have a complete understanding of the technology, processes, and expectations regarding telehealth at the organization. With so much to cover, organizations must consider which department will own this step of the onboarding process. Someone from the IT department may need to spend time with new hires going over the technology, while a manager or other physician leader will be tasked with going over protocols related to patient care. The method will vary by organization, but telehealth training must be added to the physician onboarding checklist.
4. Telehealth Options as a Benefit
Once a perk primarily for cubicle-dwellers, telehealth makes remote work possible for physicians and other healthcare providers. With physician burnout an ongoing industry concern, allowing physicians the chance to work from home–at least some of the time–may help them find a better work-life balance and improve physician job satisfaction, resulting in higher physician retention rates.
A June 2022 MGMA Stat Poll asked practice managers if they had added employee benefits in 2022, and if so, which ones. Nearly half of the poll respondents said they had expanded benefits in an effort to retain and attract talent, and among the top ten benefits added was the ability to work remotely.
Telehealth is here to stay and will continue to change healthcare delivery models in a number of ways. The full impact of telehealth on physician recruitment is still unknown, but the four points discussed here are worth considering as you develop your physician recruitment plan. If you need help thinking through the best way to leverage telehealth as a recruiting tool, a Jackson Physician Search Recruitment Consultant would be happy to advise. Contact us today.