The one thing we can never seem to find enough of as physicians is time, whether that’s personally or professionally. This is often echoed in our communities, and the answers to related questions often include recommendations to outsource as much as possible. This allows us to focus on the things we love the most and that bring us the most value.
If you've ever tried outsourcing, you likely know how hard it can be to find reliable in person help amidst staffing shortages or if you only need a few hours of help or help outside traditional business hours. The rise of the gig economy has led to several options that can be incredibly helpful, including the ability to hire virtual assistants who are both more flexible and likely less expensive. Below, we cover where to find virtual help, as well as several ways virtual assistants can help physicians, both inside and outside of the clinical setting.
Disclaimer: This page contains information about our sponsors, as well as affiliate links, which support the group at no cost to you. These should be viewed as introductions rather than formal recommendations - please do your own due diligence as to what service is right for you. We are not licensed financial or legal professionals and you should consult with those as appropriate before making decisions on the basis of this page.
Uses for Virtual Assistants in A Physician's Personal Life or Side Gig
Where to Find Virtual Employees, Assistants, and Services
Virtual Assistants for the Clinical Setting:
Edge Health provides college educated remote employees that work full time for your practice. They perform tasks such as primary or secondary phone support, billing, claims, insurance verifications, scribing, social media, and other tasks. Practices tend to use the services in multiple different ways. They are trained prior to starting in your office, and the cost is substantially less than what you would pay an in-house employee. To learn more about Edge's services and schedule a demo, and receive $500 off each of your first 3 months, connect through our affiliate link.
AI Scribes for the Clinical Setting:
We have a partnership with Abridge, founded by one of our physician members, where members can get 50% off AI scribing services, bringing the price down to only $99 dollars per month. You can try this free for one month without inputting payment information through our affiliate link with code PSG50.
Freelancers for Either Personal or Professional Help:
If you are looking for freelancers to help with specific projects or tasks, you should also check out Fiverr and Upwork (affiliate links). These sites help connect you to freelancers around the world who can help, based on your needs and budget, with specialized expertise and ease of hiring.
Uses for Virtual Assistants or Services in Clinical Settings
As we all know, staffing is a widespread issue in the clinical setting, both due to the availability and affordability of well trained staff. The amount of administrative tasks that burden both the physician and their team can lead to burnout or worse, attrition, as well as detract from the focus the team can place on direct patient care and quality of interactions with the patient. Virtual assistants or services can be a great supplement to your team, and often at a much cheaper rate than full-time, in person staff.
While virtual assistants can’t greet patients at the door in a physical location, they can handle a lot of other patient inquiries and care. For example, they can:
Handle primary or secondary phone support
Help with scheduling and sending out reminders
Provide billing and coding support
Help with insurance verifications and prior authorizations
Handle placement of referrals
Handle requests for patient records
Help with scribing
Help with social media
One example of such a service is Edge, co-founded by one of our physician members. To learn more about Edge's services and schedule a demo, and receive $500 off each of your first 3 months, connect through our affiliate link.
A Note on AI Scribing
Practices have long used virtual assistants for aid with scribing, but many practices find this to be cost prohibitive nonetheless. In the recent past, AI scribing has been rising in popularity as a cheap but extremely effective way to handle documentation of patient visits, reducing the amount of time that you have to spend putting together notes. More to come about AI scribes in a future article, but if you want to explore this option, we have a partnership with Abridge, founded by one of our physician members, where members can get 50% off AI scribing services, bringing the price down to only $99 dollars per month. You can try this free for one month without inputting payment information through our affiliate link with code PSG50.
Uses for Virtual Assistants in A Physician's Personal Life or Side Gig
We all struggle with work-life balance outside of medicine, and it’s incredibly frustrating when your free time is consumed by logistics and to-do lists. Most of us realize that we could probably outsource this but may find it hard to find the right help or feel like it’s an excessive luxury.
One of the big things that we try to encourage on the communities is the idea of career longevity. The most expensive thing in the long run is burning out to the point where you have to decrease your clinical time or even leave medicine entirely. Another big theme we emphasize is the idea of enjoying your journey through medicine, which aside from being rightfully deserved, we feel will actually enhance career longevity (and your excitement about doing what you do, which is good for everyone - yourself, your family, your staff, and your patients).
Hiring a virtual assistant (or anyone) to do the things that you don’t need to do or don’t enjoy doing is the prototypical example of where self care isn’t selfish. It can create more time for self-care, your family and friends, your career, developing your side gig, or doing nothing at all but recharging. Here are some examples of how our community members use virtual assistants in their home life.
Home “Office” Manager
A virtual assistant can mimic many of the same tasks and responsibilities they perform in clinical settings for you outside of work as well. For example, they can:
Keep up with your email, prioritizing the ones you need to see while filtering out all the phishing emails or unwanted recruiter messages
Do the same with phone calls, helping manage non-emergency after-hours calls and filtering out the important messages about extending your home or car warranty
Schedule meetings and activities and manage your calendar
Plan out meals with healthy recipes that match your dietary preferences
Do your weekly grocery shopping for delivery via Amazon, Instacart, or similar
Doing the research and/or shopping online for you (clothes, school supplies)
Planning your kids’ birthday parties or family events, from finding themes, booking venues, pre-screening options like menus or activities, and ordering party favors
Helping with travel planning
Whether you’re traveling for work or for vacation, virtual assistants can help coordinate and arrange all your travel and the corresponding logistics such as hotel or AirBNB reservations, flights, and rental cars
Creating To-Do lists for you or your family members
Sometimes you just need someone to organize you and keep you on task with reminders about upcoming deadlines (who hasn’t forgotten to get the things for their kids’ classroom event that they signed up for 5 months ago)?
Start by thinking about all of the things you do during your time off, and listing them out. Then highlight the ones that you don’t need to be in person to do!
Helping with Your Side Gig or Business
If you run a private practice or have a 1099 side gig, using others to take the mundane things off of your plate so that you can focus on growth and high level thinking is key, and will significantly expedite your pathway to success. The most common complaint we hear from physician entrepreneurs is that there's just not enough hours in a day. We would argue that it's critical for physicians in this position to outsource as much as possible. Not only will it save you time, but others may actually be better at some of these skillsets that we as physicians just don't have, and using them will result in a more polished product. It's also always good to have a second opinion or different skillset working on projects, as others may look at situations or problems differently and help you come up with solutions you wouldn't have thought of yourself. Common uses of virtual assistants in this setting are:
Organizing and keeping track of expenses and income for your self-employed or business bookkeeping
Scouting potential business opportunities or networking opportunities
Managing your social media accounts
Working on your website
Editing your podcast
Helping create brand-aligned content such as blog posts
Aiding in market research as you build out your endeavor
Market research for product-market fit and feedback
Finding the Right Virtual Assistant or Employee
Writing a Job Description
Like with anything, you may have to try out a few before you find the one that jives the best with you and your needs.
Start by making a list of your absolute “dealbreakers,” i.e. the things that they absolutely must be able to do well. Then make a list of “would be nice.”
Use these lists to create a job description and a description of what the ideal candidate would look like. This will help clarify expectations for those that are considering your position, and allow them to self-screen out if they don’t think they meet criteria. This is a time consuming effort on both sides, so the more that both parties are upfront from the beginning about what it will take to work, the better the chances it will work out.
If you’re really taking this seriously, there are some great books out there about hiring the ‘right’ person. We like Who, by Geoff Smart, for example.
When you're thinking about what to pay a virtual assistant, do some market research. Search the internet on sites like Indeed or Fiverr and Upwork to see what market rates are for this skillset. Also consider what hours you'll need them to work (expect more for nights and weekends) as well as how much of their time you'll need (paying a little more will ensure that their first priority is working on your project if they've got several clients). On the whole though, expect to pay less for virtual help than in person help, as the flexibility and work from home usually means that people are willing to work from less. International help can be particularly cost effective, with some offering their services for a few dollars an hour even with a skillset that would typically be much more expensive in the United States.
The Hiring Process
Once you’ve got the job description, it’s time to start looking. Asking in your personal networks is always nice as you have references you can trust. Many times, though, it can be hard to have our friends and family find time in their busy schedules to help us with these searches. Solutions such as Fiverr and Upwork are great websites in the gig economy that can help connect you to freelancers around the world who can help, based on your needs and budget, and have talent across many different industries. For private practice needs, using a service such as Edge can be very useful, as they will pre-screen employees based on your needs, and then present you with a few candidates who you can then interview and decide from.
If you are handling the hiring on your own, there are several legal and accounting matters to be aware of.
First, make sure that you have a clearly drawn out contract that specifies not just the work they’re being hired for and the rates, but also includes any nondisclosure agreements you might want.
Second, if you are not hiring through a website like Fiverr and Upwork or through a third party such as Edge, all of whom may handle the payment and tax reporting for you, you will need to make sure you do this appropriately. Most people hire virtual employees as 1099 employees, at least at first. In this case, you will want documentation that they understand that they will (most likely) be 1099 employees and responsible for paying their own taxes. Assuming they are 1099 employees, you will need to collect a W9 for payment purposes and you will need to report this income. Nowadays, there are several easy ways to pay assistants via things like Venmo and Zelle. Find whatever works for both of you!
If eventually you like the employee enough to hire them permanently and bring them on as W2 employees, you can use a service such as Gusto for easy payroll processing.
Whether at work or at home, physicians are busy. Hiring virtual assistants in either setting can alleviate some of the additional stressors in your life that contribute to burnout, leaving you with more time to focus your energy where it matters while helping you to improve your productivity and enhancing patient care. Once you try outsourcing things that are time consuming and/or not enjoyable for you, you'll likely never want to go back to doing those things!