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As telehealth becomes more widespread due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals, health care facilities and agencies are looking for telehealth directors. These tend to be well-paying jobs that in some cases allow you to work from home most or even all of the time.
What is a telehealth director?
It depends on the setting and the provider, according to Susan Campbell, public health treatment program administrator for Delaware Health and Social Services.
She said a telehealth director working for the state or a non-profit might have different duties than one in a health care setting.
The title also might be telehealth coordinator or program director rather than telehealth director.
However, whatever the exact title, the job description usually will include:
- collaborating with clinical and non-clinical staff, vendors and others to ensure best practices.
- providing technical support for providers and patients.
- keeping up with any changes in government regulations on telehealth.
How do you become a telehealth director?
Most employers are looking for a seasoned professional with strong computer and communication skills, according to Campbell.
Many postings for telehealth directors state a requirement or preference for a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree in public health, nursing, hospital or business administration, social services, or IT.
Prior work experience in at least one of these fields is also required. Some employers are looking for candidates with at least 10 years of experience.
Campbell said hospital systems may require a medical background, while other employers are looking for more of an IT or marketing background.
Some higher education institutions have begun offering telehealth director certification programs.
Campbell said the certification program at the University of Delaware teaches you how to roll out a telehealth program in case you are expected to start one from scratch. Those who enroll in the program also learn about the different online platforms for telehealth.
“While it is highly recommended and makes the job seeker more valuable, most employers are not currently seeing an actual certificate as a requirement,” she said.
Telehealth directors have to be able to collaborate with those in the health field and the legal field, according to Campbell.
She said the job involves getting people together to talk about both what’s working and the hurdles being encountered.
“You certainly can’t be shy,” Campbell said.
Applicants are expected to have nearly expert knowledge of whatever online platform the provider is using because telehealth directors help clients and patients log on for virtual appointments, according to Campbell.
Telehealth directors are also responsible for answering questions from medical professionals who have to access the platform, she said.
Applicants for this position need to have the research skills to keep up with changes in policies and procedures for telehealth, according to Campbell.
How much can you expect to make as a telehealth director?
The annual salary for a telehealth director is currently $96,546, or $46 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter. Most of those hired for this position can expect to make anywhere from $59,500 to $119,500 per year.
Campbell said a telehealth director working for a small practice would probably have a similar salary to an office manager. However, those working at a large medical center can expect higher pay.
Where do telehealth directors work?
Telehealth directors work in either office or remote settings, according to Campbell.
She said If you are comfortable with Zoom calls so you can collaborate virtually with others, you may not have to leave the house to do your job.
“It does make for an attractive option,” Campbell said.
Some telehealth directors are partially remote, meaning they are expected to come to the office at least once or twice a week, according to Campbell.
Why does this position exist?
Over the past decade, some providers started using telehealth in one capacity or another, such as follow-up visits after surgery to see how a patient is doing, according to Campbell.
Offering virtual appointments is beneficial for patients who have difficulty leaving their homes due to mobility issues, as well as those in rural areas who may live a long distance from a hospital or clinic, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Providers began to hire people specifically to coordinate telehealth operations because “physicians are busy seeing patients,” Campbell said.
Office staff are also already at capacity as far as workload, according to Campbell. Even if they had the time, those individuals might lack the technical skills needed to act as a telehealth coordinator, she said.
How has COVID-19 affected hiring for telehealth directors?
When the global pandemic began in early 2020, even more hospitals and clinics turned to telehealth as a way to see patients while maintaining social distancing.
“Because of the pandemic, it’s no longer a question of if we are going to deliver this service, but how we are going to deliver this service,” Campbell said.
Around 1.7 million Medicare beneficiaries received telehealth services in a single week in April 2020, up from 13,000 before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Milken Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank.
During that same week, private insurers reported a 4,347 percent increase in telehealth claims.
Naturally, this increased the demand for telehealth directors, according to Campbell.
As far as the future for these jobs, “I think there will be a natural adoption to telehealth because of the pandemic,” Campbell said.
However, the adoption will have to take place on all levels, including legislators, providers and patients, for telehealth to continue to be a common practice beyond COVID-19, she said.