8 Ways to Earn Extra Income From Medical Activities

Leigh Page

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March 22, 2016

In This Article

3. Perform Independent Medical Exams

Although this type of part-time work can be rewarding, be forewarned: You'll be performing a history and physical exam (H&P) that are very different from what you do for your own patients, in that you'll be trying to establish whether this person merits a payout for worker's compensation, auto insurance, health insurance, or Social Security. So don't expect a warm and cozy relationship to develop.

In some cases, patients may be hiding some aspect of their physical condition so that they can qualify for a payout, says David P. Kalin, MD, a family physician and independent medical examiner (IME) in Oldsmar, Florida. If that's the case, the IME physician will try to uncover it. "You don't just do a simple H&P," Dr Kalin says. "You have to be pretty thorough about it."

"I've being doing independent medical exams for quite a long time, and it's a good business," he says. His fees range from as little as $100 an hour for a Social Security examination to $500 an hour for private payers. The IME work involves about one quarter of his professional time. He says some cases can take him an hour or two, whereas others take a full day.

The payments can add up to a tidy side income. Scope Medical, a Massachusetts-based company that hires physicians to serve as IMEs, reports that reviewers can earn $5000-$75,000 per year, and the work can be done on Saturdays and early evenings. Scope physicians typically examine six to 10 patients at a time at a Scope facility, following a specified format, the company states.[5]

As is the case with claims reviews in general, Scope says there's higher demand for certain specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, cardiologists, otolaryngologists, ob/gyns, hand surgeons, and psychiatrists.

"The way you write your report has to be geared to the way a lawyer thinks," Dr Kalin says. For example, if the doctor reports that the patient's medical condition was "exacerbated" by a car accident, the patient will probably get very little compensation. But if he reports that it was "aggravated" by the accident, "there is money around that," Dr Kalin says.

Learning these nuances in terminology, and understanding the goals that IME physicians are supposed to meet, requires training. Dr Kalin advises taking some courses approved by the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners (ABIME), and then getting ABIME certification.

Physicians seeking IME work can contact worker's comp programs, auto insurers, and other companies and agencies. Many state worker's comp programs, such as those in Washington and New Mexico, require IME physicians to be approved by the state. SEAK, the expert witness training company, also works with IME physicians and provides a national directory[6] of them on its website.

Pros: Payments can be generous, and you can create your own schedule.

Cons: The people you examine may feel antagonistic toward you.

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