Telehealth is fast becoming the new normal among healthcare and medical practices. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente reported in 2016 that it treated more than half of its patients – some 52 percent, or 59 million – via telemedicine. The consortium also reported that the number of telehealth appointments shot up by 3700% from 2019 to 2020, as more patients continue to seek treatment for non-emergency-related conditions from the comfort of their own home via computer, tablet or smartphone.
Whether you’re a primary care physician or a mental health practitioner, if your practice has set up a telehealth practice, how will you let your patients know about it, as well as educate and inform them when it is appropriate to use? The challenge now is leveraging your telehealth services to maximize your brand and differentiate you from other physicians, as well as use it to take a leadership position among competing practices and physicians.
How Can You Make Telehealth User Friendly?
Before even thinking about marketing your telehealth service, you need to make sure that it is user friendly. Patients should be able to schedule telehealth visits on your website and be able to include their insurance information or make direct payment. For example, Vanguard Medical Group, a small consortium of independent physicians in Cranford, NJ, allows patients to make appointments through its eCare service found on its website, and charges a flat fee of $45 for its telehealth visits. Patients can access the telehealth visit on their computers, smart phones, or tablets.
As a physician, you also want to set up strict guidelines for telehealth visits. In the case of Vanguard, the medical group will only allow patients who have a history with Vanguard to use it, and if it is determined through the telehealth visit that an in-person visit is needed, it will waive the $45 fee.
“In the end, this service helps us take better care of our patients, especially at a time when the industry is evolving towards value-based payment systems,” said Dr. Thomas McCarrick, Vanguard’s chief medical officer. “This service reduces fragmentation – if our patients can’t get in touch with us, their next option often is the emergency room or an urgent care unit where they won’t know the doctor who is treating them. So, we think this service enables us to better build a relationship of trust with our patients that will improve the care and outcomes of cases.”
Marketing Tips For Your Telehealth Business
There are many ways to incorporate telehealth to make your brand stronger to both current and existing patients. Some may take more time and effort than others, but those efforts will be worth it to showcase your telehealth capabilities. Some tips:
- Use SEO and paid social media to speak directly to target audiences. They are often avid internet users;
- Post an educational video on both your website and social media channels on how to use your telehealth services;
- Invest in external advertising on the web and in print ads to get the word out that you offer telehealth. You may even consider investing in paid social media ads to extend your branding reach;
- Send broadcast telehealth marketing emails: Inform past and current patients about telehealth options and how they can benefit, especially if you practice in a rural area where patients might have to drive a long way to see you;
- Offer a telehealth option with each patient phone call. This way, all of your patients will know that you offer the service and that it can be used at their convenience.
- Broadcast your telehealth services via direct email to your patients. This will serve as another channel to inform current and new patients of your services, and
- Post POP signage internally: Reinforce your message with in-office signs and posters. Include with staff/provider conversations with patients and keep it fresh.
- Present patient testimonials on your web site on how convenient and easy-to-use your telehealth services are. Encourage your patients to provide testimonials, and use telehealth as a way to increase patient satisfaction.
You’re Part of the Future
Most patients want telehealth, especially if a trip to the doctor’s office is inconvenient for them, and consumers in general expect to see telehealth as part of the new normal in medicine, especially after the pandemic. Now is the time to show your patients that you have embraced the future by offering this service, and that you’re part of the positive changes happening in the healthcare industry.