I remember the day my credentials for the telemedicine platform I signed up for were approved. I recall it like it was yesterday. Immediately after reading the approval email, I left my office and shared the news with my top two cheerleaders — my mom and my husband. We all jumped for joy because my dream to work from home as a physician was finally about to come true.
Yet amid all this excitement was fear; I was scared to do the job. You see, prior to my work in telemedicine, I practiced as a nephrologist and eventually as an internal medicine hospitalist. Although I did occasional outpatient work as a nephrologist, the thought of immersing into telemedicine full time worried me. "I don't know if I want to do this," I thought. All the things that made me uneasy about telemedicine came to mind: not being able to perform physical exams, relying exclusively on video and phone consultations. This was unfamiliar territory, and I questioned how I would navigate it. So I chose to pump the brakes for some time.
After delaying my decision for six months, I finally gathered the courage to take baby steps toward my goal. I completed my training, printed all the guidelines from my company, put them in a folder, and regularly reviewed them to familiarize myself with the company’s policies. I started seeing two patients a day and slowly building up my stamina.
Remember, baby steps! It was important that I got started, even if it was a slow start, because action is the cure for indecision, fears, and analysis paralysis. The more patients I saw, the more confident I got. I initially did phone-only consultations, then expanded to video consultations later. Little by little, I was getting into my telemedicine groove.
The deeper I got into telemedicine, the more I realized that I would enjoy doing this full time. I started calculating how many patients I needed to see daily in order to reach my targeted monthly income. However, the planning process came to a halt when I learned that having two state licenses wouldn't get me enough patients. I would have considered myself lucky had I been able to see even five patients a day. To make matters more difficult, COVID-19 hit. More physicians joined the platform, and with this influx, my census of patients went down to nearly nothing. At this point, I considered getting a locum gig, but a conversation with a fellow telemedicine colleague changed everything for me.
I learned from my colleague that they had no issues getting patients because they had multiple state licenses. That's all it took for me to quickly apply for four more state licenses, with the eventual goal of getting 10 in total. I hired a company to do it for me, and within two months, I was up to five licenses and a much more steady census. I most recently got my California license, which allowed me to reach my goal of 10 licenses. This is what solved my low-census problem. Every time I log in now, I have patients to see.
Having this telemedicine gig on a major platform has helped me achieve my dream of working from home as a physician. On top of that, implementing the idea of multiple state licenses (at least six), and hiring someone to do it for me, has been a game changer. My telemedicine job went from being my side gig to my main gig. I love the freedom this has afforded me in terms of time, money, and location. I also love that my friends and fellow colleagues who have taken these same steps are living the work-from-home life as well (without worrying about money, of course). And if it worked for us, it can work for you, too.
What do you think about working from home as a physician? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Nana Korsah, MD, nephrologist, telemedicine internist, financial and life coach for physicians. She can be found at www.mdworklifebalance.com.