The development and acceptance of telemedicine has only grown for the past 3 years. COVID has helped a lot with that, but there’s is another side to this picture.
Think about all of the online services and commodities that have been developed so far. All the ones that were designed to make it easier for people to receive products and services at the comfort of their homes.
COVID helped most of them get more popularity, and made people create new ones, but that doesn’t mean they’re going away once the pandemic is over, right?
That’s exactly the case with telehealth services. COVID pushed the industry even further to advance telemedicine. As a result, many people discovered that online medical services are not only safe, but very convenient as well.
So, what do you need to start getting into telemedicine? Let’s take a look!
Go beyond the common market: Find your niche
The first thing you need to have is the idea. You have to spend some time on that. Now, that seems pretty obvious, so why do we mention it?
Well, many NPs settle for ideas that expose them to a great deal of competition without knowing it. A telemedicine business doesn’t have to be directly tied to things like Primary Care. It’s important to find yourself a niche.
But what is that? Great question. The word “niche” refers to a division or subcategory of the larger “market” your business will be in. Finding a niche for your NP business not only ensures less competition, but maybe even reduced costs.
The great thing about telemedicine is that it is already a niche market. Not every NP entrepreneur is putting together an online consulting business. However, as we mentioned, the trend is growing.
A good example of niche businesses can be those who cater to a very specific part of the population. But you don’t have to stop there. You can also consider offering specific treatments, products, and services to that specific population.
In many ways, the more specific you get, the better. There’s a lot of room for you to find one thing that you can do that no other NPs, at least in your area, are doing right now.
Combine that with the fact that you’ll be doing things online and you’re on your way to having a side business that will at least stand out from the crowd. That is one of the most important things every entrepreneur needs.
Get acquainted with telemedicine law and scope of practice
It might sound like we’re scaring you into furiously googling “telemedicine laws in my state,” as a way to prepare you for the myriad roadblocks that you’ll encounter (which you should actually always do).
However, when we say “get acquainted,” we also mean: start thinking about the practice advantages that a telemedicine business can give you.
For example, it is possible for you to practice independently via telemedicine in a state that supports independent practice, while you’re physically in a restricted state. You need to have a license in the independent practice state, of course. So, if you live in a state where practice is restricted, this will be a key advantage for you to expand your business.
Again, you do have to pay attention to the current federal and state laws. There are, still, many legal ramifications that have arisen from nurse practitioners working in telemedicine.
A good place to start informing yourself is the website of the American Telemedicine Association.
The more you go into the current laws and regulations, the more you’ll identify different avenues that might or might not work for your business.
For instance, maybe your business idea has to do with something that isn’t covered by insurance. Well, how about skipping it completely? There is a possibility to directly receive cash for your services, even if this seems a little taboo.
Now, regardless of the fact that it’s crucial to walk on the path of law, the key to finding a great business plan is to think outside the box without breaking the rules. Don’t just focus on what you can’t do, also focus on what you might be able to accomplish inside the legal framework of a telemedicine business run by a nurse practitioner. Be creative!
The tools of the trade for telemedicine
So, you have your idea, and you know how to implement it within the constraints of the law. In paper, you’re ready to go.
Now is the time to think about things like creating a business entity, preferably an LLC. Then you need to think about other things like a separate bank account for your business, an Employee Identification Number (EIN), and your National Provider Identifier (if you take insurance).
Then there’s the technology. The core of the telemedicine practice is having online consults, so you have to excel at that.
We have written about telemedicine technology for nurse practitioners before, but as a business owner, you might want to take some other considerations.
For example, in our previous article (linked above) we mentioned that you should create a work profile in the laptop you already have, but if you’re putting together a whole business, you might as well get yourself a separate laptop.
Skip overly stylized laptops with sleek designs. Go for a computer that has exceptional video and audio quality, and lots of memory and processing power. There are laptops specifically designed for business needs. Work, not Netflix. That’s what you need it for!
Then move on to the other tools you’ll need. Speakers that allow you to hear exactly what a person is saying. A mouse that’s comfortable to use. You’ll be spending some time with this computer, so you might as well set up a telemedicine home office. You might want to think about getting an external, quality microphone, and definitely a better chair.
Last, but not least, is your internet connection. Not only because of video calls, but because you’ll be using the internet even more. The best bandwidth possible ensures that you’ll never have to leave a patient hanging (before, during, or after the online consultation).
Telehealth softwares for consultations
Depending on the business you choose to create, you might need to use one of the many telehealth software companies out there.
These companies have set up platforms that allow providers to have online consultations in a HIPAA-compliant way. Some of them work extremely well, others need work themselves.
Note: Be sure to find out if the type of telemedicine business you run actually requires you to use these softwares.
Marketing a telemedicine practice
A great advantage of having a private practice that focuses on telemedicine is the reduced marketing costs. You can achieve a lot with social media and online ads.
However, when you’re doing telemedicine, your online presence becomes even more important.
This is why your business plan should set aside a sizable budget for marketing, specifically online marketing. We know it sounds tedious, but if you’re on social media, you’re already doing some marketing of your own.
We’ve written before about using things like Facebook Groups to share content that is relevant to your particular patient base. Not just advertisements of your business, but things like advice and resources that they find useful.
Another thing you can do is consider making YouTube videos that address the issues that your particular niche business can solve.
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