The adoption of telehealth during the coronavirus pandemic has been dramatic. Adoption rates were around 20 percent among hospitals pre-coronavirus, but that number jumped to 90 percent of hospitals during coronavirus, according to a recent survey. And upwards of 60 percent of those said they planned to continue the practice afterward.
An opportunity for education around telemedicine
While the onset of COVID-19 has doubled the percentage of Americans who have tried telemedicine, according to a survey, the overall percentage is still fairly low. Only 16% of Americans had tried a telehealth visit in the past, while another 17% have used telehealth since the pandemic struck. But interestingly, in a survey by Sage Growth Partners, 35 percent would now switch their physician in order to have access to virtual care.
That’s an opportunity for any healthcare digital marketing effort. While awareness of and the desire to have access to telemedicine may have increased, patient education is needed around how to use it, when it’s appropriate, and what types of services make sense for a virtual visit. Healthcare marketers need to readdress their content marketing strategies and plans now to wrap in — and focus on — this new essential service.
Telehealth is poised to transform healthcare delivery
Patients often think of primary care or emergency services as the natural fit for telehealth. And they’re not wrong. But telehealth also holds promise for appointments with specialists, such as OB/GYN, cancer care, and even orthopedics.
Gaurov Dayal, MD, president, new markets and chief growth officer at Miami, Florida-based health care provider ChenMed, says that even specialties like cardiology could see an increase in telehealth patients. “Once a cardiologist has an EKG at hand, there’s no need to put the stethoscope to the patient’s chest,” explains Dayal. But the key is that patients need to know what their options are with regard to the use of telehealth appointments.
It’s also important for providers to remember that not all patients will have access to smartphones and high-speed internet, adds Dayal. Still, a phone call to the patient “gets you 80 percent of the way there.”
Dayal’s take is that telehealth will unleash a revolutionary change around healthcare delivery. The key drivers, he says, are convenience and cost. Previously an advantage only for the patient, CMS and private payers have largely ushered in payment parity between telehealth and in-person visits, and that seems likely to continue.
Revise your content marketing plan
Any healthcare digital marketing plan made prior to coronavirus will probably not put you in position to truly take advantage of the public’s new awareness of telehealth. It’s time to rethink your content marketing plan if you haven’t done so already and assign particular focus to how you will market telehealth. Here’s how to get started:
1. Reconsider your goals.
Creating a digital marketing strategy and plan around marketing your telemedicine services is just like the bigger strategy and planning you do (or should be doing) to map out your overall effort. Many of the same steps are necessary, including identifying your goals and aligning them with the organization’s overall goals. In this case, ask yourself:
- What are your organization’s goals for using telehealth, and when do they need to be achieved?
- Is your organization more focused on retaining patients or gaining new patients?
- How can telehealth increase patient satisfaction?
- Where can operational efficiencies be achieved?
- What plans are in place to replace any revenue losses realized during COVID?
2. Identify your differentiators.
Within the telehealth space, you need to determine what makes your service, approach, and even technology different from the next healthcare organization that also offers telehealth services to its patients. Remember, choose differentiators that are important to your audience. What are their pain points around getting medical services? What are their fears about using telehealth? Tell them how your approach addresses those concerns. Then focus on those differentiators in your content consistently and clearly.
3. Find out what your competition is doing and saying.
As with any planning process, competitive research is key. Ideally, you want to take a look at what your competitors are doing to market the same service. That means understanding organic social use, paid media and search activity and spending, and quality/quantity of any content being produced around telehealth subjects. You’ll need to consider whether you are catching up to the competition or taking advantage of their lack of activity — and then adjust your plan accordingly.
4. Pay attention to demographics when marketing telehealth.
Just like you might have a different strategy and plan to address different audiences, each patient type has different knowledge, comfort level, and needs where telemedicine is concerned. Consider reworking or expanding the detail around your existing personas to specifically address the telehealth concerns or barriers for each one. Not surprisingly, millennials, who have grown up with technology, are most likely to try or have tried telemedicine. In a 2019 American Well survey, 54 percent of those who had already used a telehealth visit were millennials. Seniors are less engaged with, and in some cases, daunted by the idea of the technology. But they are still willing to try a virtual visit, with 52 percent saying they are open to a telehealth appointment. Your approach and content will need to be tailored for each persona accordingly.
5. Customize content formats.
The media has put a spotlight on telemedicine during coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you should assume that everyone understands it enough to jump in with both feet. Whereas before COVID-19 the challenge may have been building awareness of your service, you now need to delve deeper into the details of how to use it, when to use it, and where it’s available. That will likely create the need for more engaging formats that answer questions and explain how your telehealth services work. For today’s healthcare digital marketing content, you should consider:
- Easy-to-read instruction checklists for seniors
- How-to guides, health vlogs, or videos from doctors about the ease and value of video visits
- Step-by-step instructions via screen recording (using a platform like Loom or Screencastify) to show users exactly which buttons to click on your platform
- Interactive quizzes to provide quick answers to nagging concerns and help with decision-making around seeing a doctor.
6. Rethink how you are distributing your content.
Remember, your distribution and education efforts cannot only be focused externally. Start inside your organization. Make sure your staff is informed and trained so that almost anyone can answer a question about how telemedicine works. Where applicable, suggest that staff offer it as an option for follow-ups, future visits, and second opinions with every patient they see. Also consider how telemedicine could be used internally to gain efficiencies and keep staff safe.
Then, promote your telehealth offering and differentiators clearly to those who visit your website, get your emails, walk into your facilities, and follow you on social media. Bolster those organic efforts with paid media targeting your updated personas. Also consider paid search for those in your area who are already looking for a telemedicine provider.
Across the world of healthcare digital marketing, there is a considerable opportunity to expand reach and deliver services to patients who are, in some cases, struggling with how to understand the new norm of healthcare.
Need more help with your telehealth planning efforts? Download our eBook, “Build Your Content Marketing Plan: A 10-Step Guide.”