Telehealth vendors are scrambling to hire doctors and get them onboarded as soon as possible to meet skyrocketing patient demand as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the U.S.
"The big challenge we have right now is there's a need to get as many providers on our platform as quickly as possible so we're able to meet that surging demand," Ross Friedberg, chief legal and business affairs officer at Doctor on Demand, told Healthcare Dive.
San Francisco-based Doctor on Demand is aggressively recruiting, Friedberg said, and "rapidly increasing" its number of providers daily, though the company declined to share more specific figures.
Mobile app-based vendor 98point6, which licenses its physicians in all 50 states, is bringing on short-term physicians to help with the recent dramatic increase in patient volume. Over the next month, the startup expects to triple the number of doctors working at 98point6.
"We've gotten a lot of applications — more in the past two days since we put out this temporary position than we could have imagined," CEO Robbie Cape told Healthcare Dive. "That being said, we need 10 times more."
98point6 has seen total visits more than triple in the past few weeks, with two-thirds of the volume related to COVID-19, the flu-like disease caused by the coronavirus that has killed at least 100 people in the U.S. as of Thursday.
Other vendors are seeing a similar spike as patients flood their platforms, including those concerned they've contracted the virus and want to check symptoms and others with conditions who want to be treated at home amid social distancing.
Privately-held telehealth vendor Amwell has seen more than a 1,000% increase in virtual visits, the company's CEO Roy Schoenberg told Healthcare Dive.
In the second week of March, Teladoc saw patient visit volume soar 50% over the prior week and it continues to climb, according to the Purchase, New York-based vendor.
The novel coronavirus is shining a light on the country's shortage of medical providers. Staffing firms have reported mounting demand for temporary health workers to patch the gaps as hospitals prep for a wave of patients with COVID-19 amid an already tight labor supply.
HHS has rolled back regulatory barriers to telehealth use over the past week, including allowing virtual care visits to be covered under Medicare fee-for-service — something the telemedicine lobby has wanted for years. CMS granted a blanket waiver March 13 enabling providers licensed in one state to provide services to patients in another state.
However, the out-of-state licensure guidance doesn't pre-empt state-specific requirements, though some states like Idaho, Florida and Washington have relaxed their rules about licensure and eligibility to combat the coronavirus. The American Telemedicine Association called on state governors Tuesday to allow out-of-state doctors to practice medicine in their states via telehealth in light of the guidance from CMS.