Telemedicine has moved from a nice-to-have to a necessity as COVID-19 pushes health systems to care for patients virtually. Though the current reliance on virtual care is temporary, the importance of telemedicine is here to stay.
Given this new landscape of care delivery, how can you position your brand, facilities and providers as you offer more virtual care?
To strategize your messaging and branding strategy around virtual care, healthcare marketers need to assess the needs, wants and priorities of patients navigating a new care experience. You can start by highlighting telemedicine services as part of your obligation to provide quality care at the right time – and in the right place.
Branding and messaging for telemedicine might vary for each patient demographic, specialty offered and geographic region, but every strategy needs a strong foundation on which to build.
Here are statistics and guidelines that can help frame your telemedicine marketing efforts.
Understanding the Telemedicine Market
To get the most value from your telemedicine marketing, you first need to understand the audience you’re planning to reach.
Up to 77% of consumers would consider seeing a provider virtually, and 19% already have, according to an Advisory Board survey.
That willingness spans across most medical services, with most respondents saying they would consider a virtual visit in each of the 21 primary and specialty care scenarios tested. It also spans age groups, with the AP-NORC Center’s 2018 Long-Term Care Poll finding that adults aged 40 or more years were just as likely as those aged 18 to 39 to say they would give telemedicine a try.
Clearly, consumers are comfortable with the idea of virtual visits, especially in the wake of COVID-19, giving healthcare marketers a captive audience to attract. But what are these consumers looking for?
To understand the needs, wants and priorities of these patients, here are some questions to consider:
- Who are common urgent-care or walk-in patients that would benefit?
- Will a patient or caregiver make the decision to use the service?
- Which factors motivate people to choose my providers?
- How often do patients cancel in-person appointments and for what reasons?
- When, where and how are consumers scheduling appointments with me?
- How much does distance/travel influence a region’s healthcare decisions?
Categorizing Your Telemedicine Services
In addition to answering those questions to frame your marketing strategy, be sure to communicate the breadth of healthcare service categories available through telemedicine. They may not all be obvious to patients.
A full picture of those telemedicine categories’ popularity has not yet emerged, but some trends are clear.
The proportion of virtual visits focused on mental health has decreased in recent years, as providers begin adding other care categories to the telehealth roster. Mental health fell from the No. 1 diagnostic category for telehealth in 2016 to No. 5 in 2017 at 7% of total claims; while injury made up 13% of telemedicine diagnoses in 2017, according to nonprofit healthcare organization FAIR Health.
Meanwhile, the shift to value-based care and healthcare consumerism is heightening the importance of chronic care management, where telemedicine is a logical option.
“Direct-to-consumer virtual specialty and chronic care are largely untapped frontiers,” says Advisory Board’s Emily Zuehlke. “As consumers increasingly shop for convenient, affordable healthcare – and as payers’ interest in low-cost access continues to grow – consumers are likely to reward those who offer virtual visits for specialty and chronic care.”
Addressing Patient Concerns
To convert interested prospects into virtual patients, healthcare organizations need to understand and respond to consumers’ top concerns. Only 9% of respondents in the AP-NORC Center survey said they had no concerns about virtual visits, leaving plenty of room for marketers to ease their worries.
Other top consumer concerns surrounding virtual visits include data security, privacy and needing an in-person clinic anyway. Cost is always among the top issues for consumers, so make sure your review management team and providers have up-do-date information for payment FAQs and are ready to answer.
As a relatively new healthcare experience to many, patient reviews and ratings are highly valuable to those considering telemedicine services for the first time. They’re valuable to health systems too. In a 2017 review of Kaiser Permanente’s virtual patient interactions, 93% of patients were satisfied with their experience.
With strong benefits to patient experience, high consumer demand and a disease outbreak that has caused so many patients to stay home, telemedicine is now in the industry spotlight. Using targeted, smart, strategic marketing to carry your patients and providers into the world of virtual care will maximize its value for your organization.
For more content on managing your brand during COVID-19, you can visit our COVID-19 Resources Page and browse these resources:
- [Webinar] COVID-19, Telemedicine, and Your Online Presence
- [One-Pager] Beyond COVID-19: Preparing For Healthcare’s New Digital Landscape
- [Webinar] COVID-19 and Healthcare Marketing: Should You Freeze, Pivot, or Push Forward?
About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist