Marketing Telemedicine and Telehealth is Essential to Adoption
Whether your organization provides telemedicine, telehealth or both, the application of an effective marketing strategy is an essential component for increasing adoption for patients and for healthcare providers.
Telemedicine vs Telehealth: What’s the Difference and Does It Matter?
These terms are often used interchangeably but it’s important to understand the distinction between the two terms in order to organize an effective communications strategy.
By most definitions, including the Department of Health & Human Services, telemedicine refers specifically to clinical diagnosis and monitoring services provided remotely by a physician.
Telehealth includes a wider range of diagnosis and management, including patient education, counseling and chronic disease monitoring and management as well as continuing medical education, provider training and administrative meetings for provider organizations.
Telemedicine was the original label but telehealth is becoming a more commonly used term for this expanded scope of remote care.
So does it really matter which term your organization uses? For the near term, either label will suffice but if you provide or plan to provide the broader range of telehealth services, you may want to start using this term sooner than later.
The use of the word “telehealth” is currently increasing at a more rapid rate compared to the word “telemedicine” but most healthcare consumers consider both terms interchangeably – if they are even familiar with either word (most are not but that is changing).
The Rapid Growth of the Telemedicine and Telehealth Market
Whether your organization is large or small, if you do not currently offer remote services, you are already behind the curve. Here are just a few important statistics you need to know.
- Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia uphold laws mandating health plans to cover telemedicine services. As of 2015, 42 states proposed more than 200 pieces of legislation addressing telemedicine.
This means that more patients with health insurance will qualify for telemedicine and telehealth services and more provider organizations will be able to be reimbursed for these services through the patient’s health plan.
- For employers with onsite health facilities, 35 percent offer telemedicine services and an additional 12 percent intend to in the next two years.
- For 2017, roughly 70% of employers plan to offer telemedicine services as an employee benefit.
- The field of telemedicine services is predicted to include 7 million patients by 2018, compared to only 350,000 patients in 2013.
- There are already many telemedicine and telehealth services providers. Some of the most prominent include American Well, Doctor on Demand, Teladoc, MDLIVE, Pager, PlushCare, SnapMD, First Opinion and many more startups too numerous to include here. This is another indication of the explosive growth of the telemedicine and telehealth industry.
Marketing Telemedicine or Telehealth to Accelerate Patient Adoption
While up to two-thirds of patients surveyed responded that they would often prefer to make a telemedicine appointment, most do not even know if their providers offer this service. This is essentially a marketing communications problem.
The more that healthcare consumers (including all of your current/recent patients) are educated regarding telehealth services and how you provide these services, the greater the demand and adoption of these services will become. If you don’t offer or do offer but don’t effectively and aggressively market telemedicine and other telehealth services, you are destined to lose market share (patients) to your competitors who do.
Ignoring or postponing in providing and marketing telehealth services because you don’t find it convenient or useful to your organization is not really an option anymore because your patients will be increasingly marketed by your competition and you will lose out.
Here are just a few of the ways that you can market your telehealth services to increase adoption and gain (or at least not lose) market share:
- Inform your current/recent patients that you offer these services. This can be done via email, text messaging, signage at your facility and through collateral printed material about your telehealth services.
- Educate patients on when to consider a telemedicine appointment and when an accurate remote diagnosis is not possible or has an unacceptable margin for error.
- Make it easy for your patients to make a telemedicine appointment. Feature this option prominently on your website. If you are concerned about overuse by patients, set up a short qualifying form on your website that helps patients determine if a telemedicine appointment is appropriate and allows access to making the appointment only if certain criteria in their responses fit the profile for an effective telemedicine consult.
- Be available. If you don’t have enough provider capacity to be able to offer quick telemedicine consults, you will need to figure out how to add that capacity. One relatively newer startup, Bright.md (headquartered in Portland, Oregon) offers a software solution that creates a virtual physician assistant that allows for an increase of up to 30% in provider panel size without additional staff or facilities.
- Providers and support staff should verbally educate patients during their in-office appointments regarding when a telemedicine consult appointment may be both appropriate and convenient as well as when this type of remote appointment is not appropriate.
- Promote your telehealth services through your social media platforms. Link these posts to a special landing page on your website about your telehealth services.
- In some cases, consider online advertising for telemedicine and telehealth keyword searches – particularly in more competitive markets.
If you have more specific questions regarding your marketing strategy for patient adoption of telemedicine and telehealth services, feel free to contact me directly by calling 800-924-5447 or email me LonnieHirsch@HirschHealthConsulting.com.