Over the past decade, working from anywhere (WFA) has become a reality for millions of people.
The medical field, traditionally confined to the physical boundaries of hospitals and clinics, has also benefited from this trend. More physicians and healthcare professionals are seeking remote work and location independence benefits.
This shift has been driven by telemedicine and other telehealth technologies.
Let’s take a closer look at the remote work landscape and emerging options for physicians.
The Digital Nomad Physician
When most people think of a digital nomad, they usually think of professions such as IT or digital marketing professionals. But today, more physicians have the ability to work remotely and live as a digital nomads.
For some, working remotely as a physician can be appealing because:
- You can work as long as you have a reliable internet connection. This opens up a world of lifestyle options.
- You have the flexibility to set your own schedule and not being bound by a conventional work schedule.
- You have greater control over your professional life. You can choose the type of work you want to take, the services you wish to offer, and the manner in which you provide care.
- You can choose where you want to work, which means the potential for much lower overhead. If you have your own practice or work in telemedicine, there’s no need for a physical office and other expenses.
The Rise of Telemedicine
Telemedicine has been around for over a decade, but its adoption has seen a huge surge since the pandemic.
The medical industry has seen a significant increase in the usage of virtual telehealth solutions by healthcare providers to treat patients remotely. The pandemic played a key role in boosting telehealth usage. In 2019, only 11% of Americans used telehealth compared to 46% in 2020. Since then, telehealth usage has ranged from 13% to 17% across all specialties. According to a McKinsey survey, 58% of physicians have a more favorable view of virtual care than before the pandemic. As of April 2021, 84% of doctors offered telehealth, and 57% of them intend to continue offering it in the future.
Physicians can earn income through telemedicine consultations, healthcare consulting, and other remote medical services. Some of the types of care available with telemedicine include:
- Mental health care, including online therapy, counseling or psychiatry
- Prescription or medication management
- Results from lab tests or x-rays
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Management for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Follow-up care after surgery
Navigating the Telemedicine Market
Working for a telemedicine healthcare company can be an option if you’re looking for more flexibility.
Telemedicine is a growing market, leading to a higher demand for physicians. According to Fortune Business Insight, the future of telehealth looks promising, with the size of the market expected to rise to over $397 billion by 2027.
Companies like Virta Health and Wheel offer flexible work-at-home jobs for physicians. You also explore opportunities in tele-hospitalist positions, working with on-site hospital nurses and physicians to triage patients and create care plans.
To be a successful telemedicine physician, you’ll need to have good “website” manners and be willing to adapt. You should also be comfortable using digital platforms for patient consultations to provide high-quality remote medical care.
Medical Fields Suited for Remote Work
Many medical specialties are well-suited for telemedicine and can allow for delivering high-quality care remotely through technology. Here is a summary of some specialties:
|Ideal for remote care due to children and adolescents comprising a significant proportion of the telemedicine user base.
|Pediatric Emergency Medicine
|Pediatric emergency medicine specialists can provide remote consultations.
|Can help bridge the gap in emergency care, providing quick consultations and diagnoses to patients in need.
|Dermatologists can conduct virtual consultations for skin conditions that require visual examinations.
|Ophthalmologists can perform eye exams remotely.
|Can play a crucial role in managing chronic conditions for older patients, allowing them to receive care without physically traveling to appointments.
|Gynecologists and fertility specialists are increasingly embracing virtual care.
|Rheumatologists can use virtual consultations to monitor inflammatory diseases.
|Neurologists can conduct remote evaluations.
|Cognitive psychologists can use virtual consultations to assess and treat cognitive impairments.
|Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine
|Anesthesiologists specializing in critical care medicine can provide remote consultations and monitor patients in intensive care units.
|Hospice and Palliative Medicine
|Physicians can provide remote consultations to patients receiving end-of-life care.
|Internal Medicine and Critical Care Medicine
|Physicians specializing in internal medicine or critical care medicine can monitor patients remotely.
|Medical toxicologists can provide remote consultations for cases involving poisoning or exposure to toxic substances.
|Pain medicine specialists can provide remote consultations to patients dealing with chronic pain.
|Sports medicine specialists can provide remote consultations to athletes, helping to manage injuries and improve performance.
|Telepsychiatry and Psychiatry
|Telepsychiatry can provide greater accessibility to mental health services for patients in remote areas or those who face challenges in visiting a clinic. Psychiatrists can conduct therapy sessions, monitor medication effects, and provide mental health support through video calls.
|Dermatologists can diagnose and treat a variety of skin conditions through high-resolution images and video consultations.
|Radiologists can review and interpret digital images of X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans from anywhere.
|Pathologists can examine digitized high-resolution images of tissue samples and make diagnoses remotely.
|Neurologists can provide remote consultations for patients with neurological disorders and review digital scans and provide treatment plans.
|Cardiologists can monitor patients’ heart conditions remotely using digital health technologies and wearable devices that transmit real-time data.
|Cardiology, Oncology, and Pulmonology
|Remote monitoring and follow-up consultations can be easily facilitated through telemedicine platforms.
Work-at-Home Job Options for Physicians
If you’re a doctor who wants to work from home, there are certain job types that offer telecommuting positions.
These positions require prior clinical experience and an active, unrestricted license to apply. In some cases, physicians may need to obtain additional state licenses to provide care in multiple states.
According to MedLink, the following states are the best for telemedicine due to their large populations: California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Arizona. Here are some job types and companies that regularly hire doctors for telecommuting positions:
Clinician – Companies like diabetes treatment company Virta Health offer flexible work-at-home jobs for physicians and practitioners. Clinicians work with the team to assist patients virtually and provide remote consultations and medical care.
Medical Director – Medical directors work in many different areas of healthcare. The role of a medical director is often hands-on but there are work-from-home opportunities, mostly through insurance providers and virtual care providers.
Medical Science Liaison – Medical professionals such as physicians, pharmacists, and practitioners might discover their niche working as liaisons in the field of medical science. This position involves supervising scientific research and clinical data for corporations as they evaluate various medications and treatments.
Starting a Telemedicine Practice
If you’re running a private practice or are aspiring to set up one, integrating telemedicine can expand your reach of patients and your continuity of care.
Just like with any new business or venture, there’s a lot of planning and preparation that you’ll need to do. Here are some of the key areas to think about when you start a telemedicine practice:
- Determine the proportion of your patient base and potential target audience with tech access and the kind of medical services that could be effectively delivered remotely. You’ll want to research the demand for telemedicine in your area and identify the gaps in the existing healthcare areas that your telemedicine services can fill.
- Telemedicine laws vary by state, so you’ll have to be familiar with the laws in your state. You’ll also need to ensure that you have the appropriate licenses and certifications to practice telemedicine.
- Many telemedicine platforms are available, so you’ll need to search for the one that meets your needs. Some key factors to consider are ease of use, security, and cost.
- A business plan will help define your objectives and identify the resources you’ll need to start your telemedicine practice, including a budget, marketing plan, and staffing plan.
- You’ll need the proper equipment, such as computers, a webcam, a microphone, and a high-speed internet connection to conduct telemedicine visits. You may also need additional medical equipment depending on the services you’ll be offering.
- Your staff will need to be trained on how to use the telemedicine platform, how to conduct telemedicine visits, and trained on how to handle patient data and maintain patient privacy.
- As with any business, you’ll need to market your services to attract patients. In addition to marketing to your existing patients, you can leverage social media, email marketing, and other digital marketing strategies.
- You’ll want to regularly evaluate your telemedicine practice to ensure you meet your business objectives. You can use patient feedback to identify areas for improvement and make changes as needed.
- Running a telemedicine practice involves managing reimbursement strategies, ongoing expenses, managing data security, and having technical support in place.
You’ll also need to stay informed about legal and regulatory requirements related to telemedicine in your jurisdiction to stay compliant with laws and regulations.
Dr. Mo’s Journey as a Digital Nomad Physician
Dr. Mohammad Ashori, also known as Dr. Mo, is the founder of the Digital Nomad Physicians community, a resource for physicians worldwide who practice medicine on their own terms.
Dr. Mo’s journey started when practiced at a traditional medical practice. As with my physicians, he eventually experienced burnout. Seeking a change, he joined his first healthcare startup in 2016. This venture exposed him to the business and engineering aspects of healthcare.
He then decided to become a digital nomad physician and made his first move to Spain. He worked remotely for healthcare startups and telemedicine companies like American Well, Teladoc, Roman, Oscar, and others.
Through his website, he offers resources for physicians interested in expanding their careers and opportunities by providing information on how to start their own online practice, charge what they think is fair, market to the patients they choose, and set the hours they like. According to his website, he consistently earns $10,000 to $12,000 monthly while working 2 to 3 hours daily. You can read about his journey here.
Challenges of Working Remote
Life as a digital nomad physician comes with some unique challenges. Here are some and how to navigate them:
- Your work hinges on reliable internet. Research the internet solutions available to you and consider a portable Wi-Fi device or a local SIM card as a backup.
- Working with patients across time zones can lead to scheduling conflicts. Use online tools for scheduling appointments across time zones.
- Working as a digital nomad physician requires flexibility, so you’ll need to adapt to new environments and diverse patients.
Medical licensing laws differ by state and by country. Practicing medicine across borders can be complex, so you’ll need to understand the medical laws of your location. You’ll want to stay updated with the telemedicine regulations in your practicing country.
- Being organized is crucial when working remotely. Use software to keep track of your schedule, patients, and medical records.
- As you’ll likely handle sensitive information, you’ll need to ensure your patient data is secure.
- Consider professional liability insurance to protect yourself from potential lawsuits. Consult with an insurance expert in the field of telemedicine.
- Working remotely can lead to feelings of isolation. Engage with local communities or join a network of digital nomads to connect.
- Working remotely can be challenging to keep up with the medical community. Attend traditional seminars and workshops where possible.
Here are some other aspects to consider in dealing with these challenges:
- Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC): The IMLC is an agreement among participating U.S. states that significantly streamlines the licensing process for physicians who want to practice in multiple states. By joining the IMLC, physicians can obtain a multi-state medical license more easily.
- Reciprocity Agreements: Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow physicians licensed in one state to practice in another without going through the entire licensing process again. These agreements can help digital nomad physicians practice in multiple states without duplicating the licensing process.
- Temporary Practice Laws: Some states have temporary practice laws that allow a provider to practice for a limited amount of time, usually less than 30 days, in another state if their patient is temporarily visiting that state. This can be helpful for digital nomad physicians who need to provide care to patients in different states.
- You may consider a full license granted by a state health care professional licensing board, which permits a provider to practice in that state legally.
- You’ll need to be aware of the ongoing compliance requirements in each state where you practice. This includes completing continuing education courses, paying licensing fees, and updating their license type and status.
Blogging as a Physician
Beyond working in telemedicine, blogging can be a great way for physicians to share their experiences and insights. Blogging can also enhance your professional reputation and open up opportunities for collaborations and speaking engagements.
Starting a blog is pretty straightforward with user-friendly platforms like WordPress and Blogger. However, producing quality content consistently takes time and effort.
For some physicians, blogging can even become a full-time career and generate income through advertising, sponsored content, and affiliate marketing. It can also lead to the launching of consulting services, online courses, or health-related products.
Educating and Developing Content as a Physician
Physicians passionate about knowledge-sharing have the option to become educators, writers, or content developers. There are physicians who create educational materials like CME programs and board review courses.
They can also contribute to educational podcasts on the latest medical advancements. Companies like Hippo offer remote opportunities for physicians in teaching, writing, and editing within various medical fields.
As the trend of telemedicine platforms keeps growing, it’s clear that the future of medicine is no longer bound by working in a traditional hospital or clinic.
For some, becoming a digital nomad physician could even become a lifestyle career, where you could spend a few months in one location before moving on to another. With careful planning and management, you can choose when, where, and how much you want to work.
The freedom of working remotely comes with its own challenges, and as a digital nomad, you’ll need to stay informed, prepared, and be flexible.
For more specific information about each state’s telehealth laws, regulations, and policies, you can refer to resources such as the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers or the American Medical Association.