Marc Paulenich - COO | SVP, Strategy

The Future of Telehealth Following COVID-19

Utilization of telehealth certainly received a massive spike as a result of COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, awareness of this offering and further use will grow. But, knowledge of telehealth remains far from universal, and for many audiences, understanding how and when to use it requires further education.

Assuming the impacts of COVID-19 remain with us, the consumer’s comfort with using telemedicine for more than simply obtaining an antibiotic prescription will grow. That said, the potential for massive service demand on telehealth systems just coming online or not accustomed to such high volume has the potential for poor patient experiences. It won’t be enough to simply offer telehealth services – you will need to meet consumers’ increasing expectations around access, immediacy and seamless integration into their care.

Challenges and Benefits

Implementing telehealth, especially in small and rural hospitals, will have its own set of challenges. The most critical to overcome is universal acceptance and engagement among administration and physicians. To drive internal adoption and effective usage, “invertising,” is essential, with a focus on telehealth’s impact on patient outcomes and system ROI, rising consumer adoption, and training on usage and technology. Also, a lack of quality broadband/internet connections still presents issues in many rural communities.

Despite the initial challenges though, the benefits of telehealth are even greater for a rural hospital or physician’s practice. With the broader geographic dispersion of patients in these communities, telehealth increases access and encourages patient healthcare utilization. Whereas patient compliance may have been an issue simply due to the inconvenience of having to travel, for instance, telehealth helps to eliminate such barriers. It connects patients and clinicians to specialists from other areas, improving care, and avoids ER overcrowding in hospitals where staff size may be more limited. In a way, it gets medicine back to its house-calling roots.

Promoting Telehealth Within Your Greater Marketing Mix

Telehealth is just one more critical touchpoint with your consumers, and as such, another opportunity to confirm or negate the brand’s promise in their eyes. It can drive the use of other products and services, perceptions of a practice or facility, advocacy to friends and family – just like any other communication or offering.

But telehealth services have the potential to significantly change a patient’s relationship at an even greater level – and that’s why its management is of paramount importance. For many consumers, healthcare usage today is intermittent and transactional; however, telehealth’s ease of access has the opportunity to increase interactions with patients and fundamentally change their health and well-being. And that can more strongly position providers as critical, ongoing and life-long resources.

If you'd like discuss differentiating, promoting and growing your telehealth services during this challenging time, we’re here to help. Get in Touch.