How Providers Can Earn Competitive Wages with Telepsychiatry

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Fact: Psychiatrists can earn well-above-average pay ($150/hr, $300k/yr or more), serving the communities most in need through telepsychiatry.

The broadest and most successful applications today of telepsychiatry are largely focused on delivering care to underserved communities. Prior to the introduction of telepsychiatry, these communities were previously underserved for a few key reasons: they are in hard-to-reach areas, they are covered by a payor mix that isn't typically attractive enough to draw psychiatrists to them, and telemedicine technology was far too expensive for the clinics serving these communities. As technology has gotten cheaper, moving from hardware investments and dedicated T1 lines to web-based software that can be accessed from any device, the main barrier to sustainable adoption of telepsychiatry has been the supply of psychiatrists interested in telepsychiatry

This need not be the case. Telepsychiatry can often pay at par, if not better, than other psychiatric treatment settings.

The myth is that because telepsychaitry focuses on an underserved, under-insured and largely Medicaid populations, psychiatrists can not earn a competitive living given their skills. There is good reason for this caution: Medicaid programs across the nation have a reputation for paying rates considerably below Medicare and other commercial insurances for the same services. On average, Medicaid programs pay about 25% less than Medicare for the same services, though this number does vary state by state. As a result, nearly 50% psychiatrists in this country have closed their practices to Medicaid patients.

Enter telepsychiatry. By focusing on patients in underserved settings, telepsychiatry can take advantage of a few different types of reimbursement bonuses that can meaningfully increase the total potential revenue derived from telepsychiatry. Here are a few incremental reimbursement bumps that are available when delivering care via telepsychiatry:

  • Medically Underserved Area reimbursement rates
  • Reimbursement available to clinics and hospitals serving HPSAs and critical need communities
  • Originating Site Fee paid for telemedicine services

Let's focus on the originating site fee, as that is often the largest driver of increased revenues: Of the 47 states whose Medicaid programs reimburse for telepsychiatry, 27 states also pay an originating site fee for each and every telepsychiatry visit conducted. Our analysis finds that the average reimbursement for this code is $21.20 across the 27 states.

Why is this important? Because if you see three patients per hour, on average, you are enabling $63.60 per hour in additional revenue on top of your current professional service fees.

To illustrate the point, let's use Illinois as an example. We will assume you can perform a follow up visit in about 15 minutes for mild-acuity patients:

  • Without telepsychiatry, you would bill the 99213 four times ($28.35 each), you would generate $113 in revenue for those services
  • With telepsychaitry, you would bill the 99213 four times ($28.35 each) and the clinic could bill the originating site fee four times ($25,00 each) for a total reimbursement of $213 for the hour of work.

*We've listed each state's reimbursement rate here for you to work with on our reimbursement calculator

As you can see, the reimbursement bonuses available for telepsychiatry sessions can make for a very meaningful lift in what you can be paid for this work. This is how we are able to offer $150/hr on average to our psychiatrists (and often times more).

Reach out to us at physicians@1docway.com and we'd be happy to discuss what we can make work for you given your goals and objectives.