Telehealth has come on in a big way since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Not only are hospitals, clinics and primary care offices now pushing telehealth, many are requiring their doctors to start utilizing it.
Perhaps you are a doctor looking to moonlight by taking a telehealth position. You figure a few hours in the evenings and a few more on weekends will fill up some of your spare time and put some extra money in your pocket. That is all well and good, but don’t just jump in without researching it first.
Health Jobs Nationwide, a national online job board that helps physicians of all stripes find work, suggests that doctors ask and answer the following questions before taking a telehealth job:
1. Do I really have the time?
Transitioning to a full-time telehealth physician job is one thing, but moonlighting is entirely different. Do you really have the free time you think you have? And if so, will a second job interfere with your other goals and priorities? Time spent consulting with patients via computer screen is still time spent working.
There is a temptation to think that telehealth jobs are terribly easy. They might be easier than office jobs, but nothing about being a doctor is easy. Do not assume that telehealth is easy money that will not require a lot from you.
2. Do you have a non-compete clause to deal with?
Doctors working as employees of a particular facility are often bound by non-compete clauses in their contracts. Also known as restrictive covenants, such clauses might prevent you from taking a second job as a telehealth provider. In fact, your employer may have inserted a non-compete clause in your contract specifically to prevent you from moonlighting.
It is a good idea to thoroughly review your contract before taking a second job. This is true whether you are considering telemedicine or some other means of moonlighting.
3. What about employer policies against moonlighting?
Your contract may not contain language that would specifically prohibit you from taking a telehealth job on the side. But that does not mean you are in the clear yet. Next, consider whether or not your employer has policies against moonlighting.
If you are providing a service through a second job that you would otherwise provide for your primary job, your employer might not be okay with you working as a telehealth provider. Do not expect them to be. Providing service through an alternative platform is actively competing against your employer.
4. What is the telehealth company’s track record?
Assuming that you get the all clear from your employer to seek out a telehealth job, be very careful about whom you choose to work for. There is no shortage of technology companies now looking to get into the telehealth game. If they have little to no experience in healthcare, you might be in for a rough ride.
For example, you are ultimately held responsible for how Medicare and Medicaid are billed for your services. The last thing you want is to work for a telehealth company that doesn’t know how to correctly bill. Alongside billing is the insurance question. How will you be protected against medical malpractice suits while working for a particular company?
Taking a second job as a telehealth doctor is an opportunity to expand your scope of practice, help more people, and earn a little more money. There are plenty of great telehealth opportunities out there. Just be sure to ask yourself these four questions before you make the leap. Know what you are doing so that you don’t get yourself into trouble.