New Trend Alert: Taking Your Medical Practice Online

When you consider how the Internet has upended models of work and production in a number of industries, you don’t immediately think of the private medical practice. Not until now, at least.

But if you can imagine no receptionist and no waiting room, then you’re on the right track to understanding what makes an online medical practice tick. And it’s worked for Brooklyn-based physician Jay Parkinson, who has practiced online for close to 6 years.

The Parkinson Model
While the concept of an online medical practice may sound logistical, operations are actually quite simple.

Shortly after completing residencies at St. Vincent’s Manhattan Hospital and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Parkinson settled into Williamsburg, Brooklyn in September 2007. After realizing that many of the creative professionals prevalent in the neighborhood were uninsured, Parkinson began practicing via the Internet.

Patients visited Parkinson’s site, checked in with his Google calendar, chose a time, and input their symptoms. On his end, he’d receive an alert via his iPhone or computer. He’d then make a house call, receive payment via PayPal, and follow up via email, IM, or even Skype.

Does this sound familiar? The premise behind Parkinson’s online medical practice soon became Hello Health, a blend of EMR and social network enabling online communication between physicians and their patients.

More recently, Parkinson co-founded Sherpaa, an NYC-based health service connecting employees to its group of doctors via email and phone, around the clock. Clients include Tumblr, Skillshare, and General Assembly.

How Can You Try Something Like This?
The online model is ideal for doctors who need to spend time at home, like, say, new parents or younger, independently-minded doctors who can’t afford to start their own practice.

But even if you’re physical practice isn’t going anywhere, there is plenty to learn from the Parkinson’s model. It’ll ease your staff’s administrative burdens as well as help outpatients who may not be insured and don’t have the money to come in constantly. Charging a monthly fee, as Sherpaa does, could do the trick.

Next, you can start thinking of what services to offer your patients on a monthly program. There are a number of free applications you can use to your advantage, much like Parkinson did. You can IM patients, exchange emails, or go the telemedicine route.

House calls aren’t unheard of, either. Perhaps setting a number for the amount of house calls you’ll conduct for monthly or even yearly subscribers could be a starting point. And naturally, accepting payments via PayPal or gadgets like Square will make lives easier – for both parties.

Another thing that makes things easier for both parties under this model is the direct, one-on-one contact a patient has with his/her doctor. If you’re receiving iPhone alerts for patients under the monthly program, they skip the middleman, and you can help prevent a mountain sprouting from the proverbial anthill.

A patient who wakes up and thinks she may have a urinary tract infection, in Parkinson’s words, from a Time Magazine article last year:

“First, she has to call and make an appointment.  Then she has to get in her car, drive to an office, talk to the receptionist and fill out paperwork. She waits next to about 10 sick people, sees the nurse, sees the doctor, sees the nurse again, sees the receptionist, and then she has to go to the pharmacist. There’s about 15 unnecessary people that are involved.”

This could free you up to spend time with the family, earn you money and help out some of your patients, which in turn increases their confidence in you. What is this kind of scenario called? Oh yeah, a win-win.

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