Finding specialists that want to live in rural America is exceedingly difficult. Only 20% of Americans live in rural areas; 80% of rural areas in America are medically underserved. At the same time, rural towns are not large enough to support full-time specialists. The solution for this is telemedicine, but not exactly. Telemedicine is great for a lot of problems, but often the patient needs to be examined or procedures or infusions. This is where is the concept of a fractional doctor comes in.
The concept of a “fractional” professional is common in business, but new to medicine. If your company is too small to need a full-time CFO, you can hire a fractional CFO to work part-time. They probably are the CFO of 9 other similar sized companies.
Fractional physicians can manage patients remotely, but when the patient needs to be examined or requires an intervention, that is when the physician must travel. In person patient care can be consolidated to a single day or few consecutive days and then the physician returns home. This way, it is the same practitioner that develops the relationships with the patients rather than a rotating cast of providers. The part-time nature of the work and flexible schedule will be appealing for some physicians.
This also helps the local hospitals who haven’t been doing well in rural areas because it keeps the outpatient procedures, labs, imaging, infusions, etc. local, which is critical because that drives a lot of revenue.
The founder of this concept is ophthalmologist Kara Hartl, MD, who came up with this while working in rural Alaska. Clearly, this is beneficial for the patients because it brings specialists to rural areas and increases access to care. It is good for the doctors because it gives them some autonomy to work outside the systems that they normally do, another income stream, and work that is very fulfilling.
Dr. Hartl’s company, Troy Medical, also tries to minimize pain points for physicians and patients by handling admin work for physicians and helping patient navigate the healthcare system.
Is fractional doctoring right for you?
Dr. Kara Hartl, Founder of Troy Medical