But whether you’re a patient who uses telemedicine out of necessity or convenience or your organization relies on specialists via telemedicine monitors to provide specific health services, how you promote this service line impacts its value to consumers.
|Virtual care and telehealth programs are becoming more common at hospitals and health systems around the country. In fact, according to the American Telemedicine Association, over half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.|
Why? Because telemedicine is convenient for patients — especially those in rural locations where access to care is a real challenge. According to a 2018 New York Times article, 90 rural hospitals have shut their doors since 2010, and estimates claim hundreds of other rural hospitals are at risk of the same fate in the coming years, especially as profitability comes under increased scrutiny.
It’s also popular among major employers and insurance providers who are offering services that provide diagnosis, treatment, or prescriptions directly to employees. According to the 2018 Medical Plans Trends and Observations Report, 55 percent of those surveyed are now offering telemedicine in their health plan — up from 33 percent in 2017.
But telehealth’s potential savings for health systems is what truly makes it an area poised for growth. In 2014, a study by Towers Watson concluded telehealth had the potential to generate $6 billion in annual healthcare costs savings.
It’s all about right-sizing care
That’s why many hospitals today focus on improving access to care, particularly around ensuring patients are seen in the right care environment at the optimal cost for both the patient and the health system.
Telemedicine meets both these needs. It’s a broad term that covers two distinct routes of care:
Organizations from coast-to-coast — including some major insurance companies — have incorporated one or both of these methods into their organization to help meet patients where they are and when they need help most.
Why do patients choose telemedicine?
Despite the broad availability of transportation options in some larger cities in the United States, rural states or communities may not have such access.
Telemedicine-via-smartphone is a quick way for patients who need care right now to connect with reliable, affordable care regardless of their schedule or transportation options.
This method is also ideal for consumers who are working, traveling, or busy at home with their family or children. It’s a perfect marriage of convenience and cost.
Telemedicine in the exam room is an ever-important feature for small hospitals and healthcare organizations because it allows patients to interact with a specialist who can help without having a long commute to another city.
How to effectively promote your telemedicine services
Creating an effective telemedicine program in a hospital isn’t easy — from agreeing on billing to training staff to quelling privacy concerns, there are many barriers to overcome. But the strategic value offered to the hospital and the patients far outweigh the costs.
Another concern can be patient adoption. Surely your telemedicine launch will have a large promotion plan behind it, but before you publish a homepage banner or put up a billboard announcing your new telemedicine offerings, consider these valuable tips to help you plan for the best promotion of your new service.
1. Know who you’re trying to reach
As your organization considers the value of telemedicine to your bottom line, you first have to understand the audiences and consumers you’re hoping to reach. For example, you might want data about your patients, including:
From this data, build a patient journey analysis that helps your team understand important milestones in a telemedicine consumer’s journey. Personas, too, can help you capture specific traits and circumstances that may lead a patient to your telemedicine virtual front door.
Once you understand your audiences, use that knowledge to create benefit-focused service-line content. In 2018, UNC Health Care, headquartered in Raleigh, NC, launched a virtual care service called UNC Urgent Care 24/7, making care available to patients and consumers around-the-clock for everything from allergies to nausea to common colds and more. They also created keyword-rich, user-optimized service-line pages to educate consumers and promote this new service.
2. Make telemedicine easy to access
Like any advanced service or campaign in your hospital, you want to share your telemedicine story everywhere.
Make sure your telemedicine services are promoted throughout your website or mobile app. Include a call to action on your primary-care-service landing page to highlight telemedicine for the whole family, or add it to your pediatrics page for busy parents to access.
A page that outlines telemedicine vs. urgent care vs. emergency care can be helpful. Cone Health in Greensboro, NC, does exactly that with their Know Your Options page, giving consumers and patients a range of solutions based on their health needs.
Your homepage, too, should give attention to telemedicine, as Cone Health does in their rotating homepage banner that describes many of their different care options.
If your telemedicine comes in an app that patients can download, advertise it with flyers and brochures in your waiting room and exam room to make sure they know visits to urgent care clinics aren’t always required if they’re not up for it.
And consider partnerships in your community. For example, in 2015, Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, IA, partnered with one of their area’s largest employers to open a Mercy Telehealth Clinic. This location offers employees and dependents a convenient location to access medical services through telemedicine technology. Mercy also created content focused on helping those employees navigate this new system.
3. Promote it inside your walls and with your team
Telling patients and consumers about your telemedicine program is important, but be sure that your staff, doctors, providers, and volunteers know about it, too. Not only can they help spread the word to patients and guests they interact with, but it’s a great way to explain the new direction and innovation your organization is embracing.
Avera Health, headquartered in Sioux Falls, SD, has a separate business line for their telemedicine technology. Avera eCare has its own microsite, aimed at B2B consumers, that describes how their telemedicine services can impact hospitals, clinics, senior facilities, correctional facilities, and more.
Communication inside your walls is especially important for doctors who might be concerned about their value in the system as telemedicine is introduced. It’s also a good opportunity to explain that their specialization is still a cornerstone of your organization’s services, but that telemedicine creates opportunities to treat more patients.
4. Integrate ratings and reviews
If you’ve already integrated ratings and reviews across your website — especially for provider profiles — great work! These days, a majority of patients (nearly 80 percent!) look to ratings and reviews in their healthcare consumer journey.
Gundersen Health System, headquartered in La Crosse, WI, provides detailed information about telemedicine services on their clinic pages, such as this example for their Decorah, IA, clinic. Patients can easily see the doctors who provide their telemedicine care, along with their ratings and reviews. Their telemedicine program ties directly into their Epic MyChart.
If you have ratings and reviews for telemedicine doctors, don’t limit that content to just the doctor profile; be sure to cross-promote those stars on location profiles and the telemedicine service-line pages. Ratings and reviews help patients evaluate and choose care, and as a new service it will be helpful to read real reviews from other patients who saw your doctors in this new care setting.
Also, be sure to really read and evaluate those reviews. They can help your team see what’s going well or what could be improved in the service line. Consider each piece of feedback an opportunity to make this ever-growing service better than the competition.
Find time to reach out to reviewers, too, if you can. It’s a great way to start a conversation with patients who can become your brand ambassadors as well as learn ways to improve your diverse access to care services.
5. Bring content marketing to the mix
Patients search online to answer questions, just like all of us tend to do. And you know what they want to know when they’re sick? When the right time is to call a doctor for care.
Telemedicine content marketing can help answer that question.
“Yes, if you are sneezing, coughing, fighting headaches and fever, you should probably see a doctor. But wait! Here’s where our telemedicine service can meet you in the middle without having to leave your cozy bed!”
Avera is also a powerhouse at content marketing with their Avera Balance content marketing hub, and they use this platform to share their story about how they are expanding access to behavioral healthcare with telehealth or promoting their AveraNow virtual care options.
Content marketing is a great way to answer your users’ questions and provide your unique, benefit-rich insight into trending health topics. By making telemedicine a call to action on relevant content marketing articles you can drive traffic and interest, and hopefully increase visibility and awareness of your service.
Prepare for the future
Telemedicine will only continue to grow in popularity — and many organizations, like Intermountain Healthcare, headquartered in Salt Lake City, UT, are already iterating on how telemedicine and other delivery options create new opportunities for home care, hospice care, and senior care.
Telemedicine should be a piece of your growing strategy and mission to better the lives of your community. It offers the convenience and access patients need and addresses other constraints your organization faces, such as lowering readmission rates or emergency visits. Investments today will help your bottom line and your ability to deliver care to a greater number of patients.
Not sure where to get started with your telemedicine story? Reach out to Geonetric to get in touch with expert digital marketers, content professionals, designers, and more to start building your telemedicine experience.