How to Manage a Medical Practice for Telemedicine Physicians
Sonita Rangbar, VP, Practice Management for SOC Telemed, manages a nationwide medical practice for telemedicine physicians. Rangbar got her start in healthcare with a high-school co-op program at a local medical office. After an undergraduate degree in Biology and a Masters in Health Administration from George Mason University, she worked at Virginia-based Inova Health System as Physician Practice Manager, followed by Director of Outpatient Services. Rangbar doesn’t see much difference between her prior experience and running a virtual medical practice now.
“The virtual physician practice runs the same as other medical practices. It touches all aspects of running any busy medical practice: recruitment, contracts, onboarding, training, off-boarding, malpractice insurance—all the administration functions that keep the physicians in front of the patients who need them,” explains Rangbar.
Clinical Quality Monitoring
Quality of care is the most important aspect of any medical practice, virtual or not. Rangbar and her team work with SOC’s Chief Medical Officer, B. Tilman Jolly, MD, and the VP of Clinical Quality to conduct monthly virtual and quarterly in-person meetings with physicians to ensure understanding and execution of clinical protocols. Chart reviews are conducted with each physician, as well.
Telemedicine Clinician Recruitment
Rangbar oversees a full-time recruiter who identifies talent and meets with physicians all over the U.S. to explain the benefits of a telemedicine practice, which are many. Physicians get to work from home, have a much more flexible schedule than in other types of medical practice, and see a larger variety of cases than other physicians. Acute telemedicine physicians help patients when they are at their most vulnerable, such as during a stroke. Treating a patient who may not otherwise have been able to see an experienced, highly qualified specialist in their community hospital provides job satisfaction and helps prevent burnout.
Rangbar seeks board-certified physicians with over ten years of clinical expertise but that is just the beginning of assessing candidates. The standards are high; there are many additional requirements that make for a successful telemedicine physician. SOC also has expectations regarding company culture and willingness to contribute to medical committees.
Telemedicine Clinician Training
A large part of Rangbar’s job is overseeing and conducting training. The onboarding process involves significant commitment from the physician to complete the type of training they normally would in a practice setting, but also to learn the technology and processes for completing telemedicine consultations. As upgrades occur, retraining does, too, as well as changes to processes. For example, the stroke guidelines changed in early 2018, which meant retraining for SOC’s neurologists to implement the new guidelines.
Telemed Clinician Performance Management
Once on board (a 9-12 month process because of credentialing, licensing, and privileging requirements) telemedicine physicians are reviewed and measured very similarly to their peers working in brick-and-mortar medical practices and hospitals. SOC also tracks patient satisfaction and other additional consultation performance metrics to look for continual improvement.
With sophisticated analytics on supply and demand, Rangbar works closely with the VP of Operations and the scheduling team to ensure adequate coverage 24/7 for over 450 hospital clients. And, if there is a spike in patient volume, or a disruption from a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or flood, other non-scheduled physicians are only a phone call away. Schedules are created months in advance, providing SOC physicians with flexibility and SOC practice management with coverage assurance.
Challenges of a Medical Practice for Telemedicine
Rangbar admits that it can be a challenge not having the ability to engage a physician in person between patients to provide feedback or ask questions. The natural give and take between staff and clinicians takes more work in a virtual environment. Hiring the right type of personalities is key. The support staff need to be great communicators and willing to go the extra mile to help physicians.
Rangbar likes that telemedicine is the bridge between technology and healthcare and sees her job as tying patients and physicians together.
“We’ve done so much to blend technology and healthcare to best support the patients, the physicians, and our clients. No one else is bringing all this together in so many states, with only remote physicians. It is a true virtual practice and we are doing things at a scale no one else is doing,” Rangbar said.
When Rangbar isn’t at SOC, she enjoys reading, yoga, and spending time with her family.
If you would like to learn more about joining a virtual medical practice, visit our Careers page and submit your information.