One of the ways I’ve earned a bit of extra income over the past few years is with online telehealth platforms. I’ve come across a number of reviews of various online telemedicine providers that are geared toward patients, though I haven’t had much luck finding information online about them from the physician’s perspective. So I thought I’d write a post about the platform I’ve had the most experience with – HealthTap.
Note: HealthTap is not sponsoring this post. These are my opinions only.
HealthTap is a telehealth platform, plus more
HealthTap was founded in 2010 and offers a couple of services to patients online:
- One-on-one consults with physicians, for a fee
- Answers to health-related medical questions, for free
Physicians can get credentialed with HealthTap in order to:
- Have one-on-consults with patients, and get paid
- Answer user-submitted questions, to increase their visibility
(And just because it’s enjoyable, interesting, and feels good to help people.)
Getting started with HealthTap as a physician
I’ve been using HealthTap since June 2014, after an ad came to my email box saying that I could work “at the cutting-edge of digital health” and “use the latest health technology to help patients live healthier happier lives.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? I signed up.
Right away, I was able to start participating in a brilliant marketing strategy that really sets HealthTap apart from other telehealth companies: offering health tips and answers to health-related questions free to their users. The physician interface includes a seemingly endless wall of questions submitted by the general public.
HealthTap doctors are invited to answer these questions in 400 characters or less, without providing a personal diagnosis or giving medical advice – ie these answers do not qualify as “the practice of medicine.”
Here are a few examples:
My HealthTap earnings – revealed! (don’t get too excited)
It wasn’t until almost a year later that I applied to be a HealthTap Concierge doctor, which would allow me to do actual, paying patient consults. This was a more in-depth process because, unlike answering general publicly-posted health questions, it involves practicing medicine and requires at least one active medical license.
A staff member did a live demo with me, I sent in my credentialing information, and then consults started trickling in.
I’ve earned a little over $4368 through HealthTap since I joined. At $30 per consult, that means I’ve done fewer than 150 consults. Somewhere around one per week on average, though in reality it’s ebbed and flowed. It feels like I’ve done a lot more than that, but I think that’s because the HealthTap portal makes you want to linger, so I’ve spent a bunch of time on there without actually making any money.
HealthTap’s gamification is entertaining and clinically interesting
No matter what activity you’re participating in on HealthTap, you rack of points, rankings, badges, and trophies. Currently, in fitting with my preventive medicine focus, it appears that I’m most “known” for:
- Wellness and lifestyle
- Fitness and exercise
This is based on the types of questions I answer, “agrees” from doctors that I’ve received, checklists I’ve written, etc.
I can’t claim to know how the algorithm works for assigning paying consults to physicians. However, it’s seemed to me over the years that the more active I am on the website answering questions and interacting within the portal, the more paid consults I have available to me.
Some HealthTap doctors are absolute maniacs, as evidenced by the image above.
The calculations of “People Helped” are clearly questionable… but my point here is that there are doctors who probably spend most of their free time answering questions on this site. I’ve answered a couple hundred questions total in the past ~2 years, and this guy answered 105 in one week! You don’t receive compensation for simply answering questions, so this suggests it is really a hobby for some doctors, in addition to a side hustle.
Here are a few other initiatives I’ve seen I’ve seen on HealthTap that are aimed at making the system user-friendly and entertaining:
- Top Doctor competitions
- Monthly webinars with the CMO or other medical leadership
- Patients can send you thank you notes
- National Doctors Day celebrations
I even got a letter from the CMO in the mail and a certificate when I “placed” in one of the top doc competitions.
The best parts of HealthTap
Here are the main features that make my time spent on HealthTap worth it to me:
- Great customer service. They are always very responsive if you have a problem. They’ve also reached out to me on several occasions just to ask how things are going.
- The user interface is easy to use.
- The company is clearly putting a lot of resources into developing an AI aspect to delivering telemedicine, which I think is great.
- They will do a lot to assist you in building up my your practice, if you have the desire, such as giving you tips on how to advertise or allowing you to write a post for their blog.
- I like being able to use the platform when I have the time, and not needing to commit to shifts. There is definitely more schedule flexibility than other telemedicine systems I’ve tried.
Of note, HealthTap may not be for you if you really need long-term relationships with your patients, or if you thrive of off diagnosing and treating medical enigmas. Many consults are one-offs, and most are straight-forward, common problems.
Things that could be improved with HealthTap
My biggest gripe with HealthTap is some physicians who simply aren’t good at telemedicine and take advantage of being able to earn a quick $30 for minimal work. For example, responding to a consult with “You need to see your doctor in person,” without any other recommendations or insight. I don’t believe this problem is specific to the HealthTap platform, though I do feel that their system makes it particularly easy for physicians to do a poor job without any repercussion.
Continuity of care can be difficult. There is no good way that I’ve come across to follow-up on patients or their test results without them taking the initiative to make a new appointment. When I ask patients to follow up and they don’t do it, I don’t have the ability to reach back out to them. It is also a challenge to get a good grasp of what other doctors on HealthTap have discussed with the patient or recommended to them in previous encounters.
Occasionally there’s some programming issues. For example, I’ve received duplicate consults from the same patients, had trouble getting my consult to end when I try to close it out, and failed to have a prescription get through to the pharmacy. Customer services has always helped me out, though.
HealthTap ratings from a physician perspective
With that, I’ll go ahead and give you my personal, biased, and somewhat arbitrary ratings of HealthTap from a physician perspective. Have you used HealthTap? Let me know about your own experience in the comments below!