Taking Your Medical Practice Virtual

December 10, 2014

In this Q&A, Jeff Livingston, MD, discusses how he's integrated a virtual practice into his busy life as an office-based OB/GYN.

Virtual practice is allowing doctors to make "house calls" once again. In this Q&A, Jeff Livingston, MD, of MacArthur OB/GYN in Irving, Texas, discusses how he's integrated a virtual practice into his busy life as an OB/GYN. To do this, he uses HealthTap, for which he serves on the Medical Advisory Board, but there are many other virtual networks out there.

Q: What drove you to consider and make the switch to a virtual practice?

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"29881","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_6039272900670","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3117","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"line-height: 1.538em; float: right;","title":"Jeff Livingston, MD","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Dr Livingston: I’m always on the lookout for new ways to provide patients with the best care in the most convenient way possible. Good doctors want to help people whenever their skills are needed. That’s what we do. I'm associated with HealthTap, which enables me to do this in different, new, and more convenient ways.With my virtual practice, I can significantly improve my patients’ experiences and health outcomes. And of benefit to me is that I can practice from anywhere, using any device, and stay connected to my patients while they recover, with no additional cost or effort.

Q: What are the licensing requirements?

Dr Livingston: HealthTap Concierge works for me and for doctors in any specialty to provide virtual care, as appropriate, to their patients. For HealthTap, and with many other virtual practice networks, there is a credentialing process that verifies that the provider's license to practice medicine is valid and that he or she is in good standing. Once the credentialing process is completed, providers can then offer their professional medical services using whatever platform they've chosen.

Q: What are your costs?

Dr Livingston: None. HealthTap Concierge provides top doctors with their own turn-key Virtual Practices at no cost, allowing them to easily establish paid virtual office hours and serve more patients better.  

Q: What are your patients' costs?

Dr Livingston: My patients can access me for a limited visit-usually 10 to 15 minutes-for a fixed fee of $44. If they are subscribers to the HealthTap Prime service, then there is no charge to my patients to see me in my virtual office.

Q: How does this work logistically? Does it interfere with your office practice?

Dr Livingston: My virtual practice extends and enhances my real-world practice and helps both me and my patients.

I use my virtual practice in several ways:

- I schedule regular virtual office hours during the week, so my patients who have difficulty coming to my office, or who prefer the convenience of a virtual visit, will be able to schedule themselves for 15-minute appointments.

- My staff can schedule a follow-up virtual visit for any patient I see in my office.

- I set aside hours when I am on call to be available in my virtual office. For after hours and weekend consults, instead of taking a phone call, I can consult with my patients and see them on video - it's a virtual house call.

- If a patient reaches me when I am on call but not during my virtual office hours, I can ask her to meet me online. I simply make myself available, and my patient connects with me for a virtual visit.

Q: Do you still have hospital privileges?

Dr Livingston: Of course. One of the great things about my virtual office is that it lets me see my patients after discharge from the hospital more quickly, when it may be more difficult for them to travel to my office. Some visits, of course, require in person interactions, but I can provide faster effective care for many visits through my virtual practice.

Still have questions?

If you want to know more about having a virtual medical practice, just ask your question in the Comment section below, and it may be chosen for inclusion in a follow-up Q&A feature.

Q: Do you still deliver babies, and if so, does your virtual practice interfere?

Dr Livingston: As an OBGYN, delivering babies is the mainstay of my practice! Adding the option for virtual visits enhances my practice and doesn't get in the way of my ongoing office and hospital routine.

Q: What is your malpractice insurance like?

Dr Livingston: I was pleased to discover that extending my services to include virtual healthcare with my established patients is already included in my current coverage. I’m told that most all malpractice policies already cover telemedical or virtual care, so there’s no additional cost for insurance. My carrier also tells me that their claims history with virtual healthcare has been very good, which is consistent with what I’ve read in the press. The patients I see in my virtual office are low-risk visits. When patients are sick or when an in-person visit is warranted, I’ll send them to my office or see them at the hospital.

Disclosures:

Dr Livingston serves on the Medical Advisory Board for HealthTap, where he's working to improve the quality of online health information by providing patients continuous access to his advice, tips, and insights.