The Growth Channel

Virtual care: Three options for compensating MDs


Madhavi Kasinadhuni, Marketing and Planning Leadership Council

Providers increasingly recognize the value of virtual visits: expanded access to primary care, reduced cost of care from online interactions and increased in person appointment availability for new patients. 

To encourage physicians to add virtual visits to their services, some organizations are offering incentives to compensate them for their effort. 


Time-based compensation

Some hospitals and health systems have assigned RVUs to online visits based on the time required and level of service the physician provides. For example, Group Health in Seattle offers physicians a quarter of an RVU to engage with patients via email through their patient portal.


Differentiated payment

Separating payment for virtual care from other compensation can help physicians recognize the income they are receiving and build interest in taking on even more virtual visits. Sentara initially rolled virtual care payments into physicians’ salaries, but leaders found that most physicians didn’t notice the additional income. 

To encourage physicians to conduct more virtual visits, Sentara now gives physicians a separate monthly check for the visits they provide. The result? More physicians are doing virtual visits during open hours in the work day or evening.


Panel-based incentives

Other organizations are offering physician incentives that indirectly encourage them to integrate virtual care into their practices. The new incentive structure at Dean Health, for example, bases 45% of a physician’s compensation on productivity measures, 20% on panel size and the remaining 35% on engagement metrics. 

This new structure drives physician participation in virtual visits in two ways: (1) the engagement metrics include a measure for the percent of patients actively using the MyChart patient portal, encouraging physicians to enroll patients in online care and (2) the incentive for panel size encourages physicians to shift clinically appropriate patients online to maximize efficiency and free in-person appointments for new or more complex patients.

More on Virtual Visits

Thinking about offering virtual visits at your organization? To learn how to design a results-oriented virtual visit service read our latest white paper, Telehealth: Driving Adoption of Virtual Visits.