Telehealth is experiencing a surge in adoption due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and for good reason. Physicians can continue to see patients and generate revenue and patients can continue to receive care while following social distancing guidelines. According to analysts at Forrester Research, telehealth visits have skyrocketed over the past two months, with virtual interactions on pace to top one billion by year's end.
Yet, in the rush to support virtual visits, many health systems and providers have deployed telehealth in a rapid, ad hoc fashion. While virtual visits are arguably here to stay, healthcare marketers still need a comprehensive strategy to maximize telehealth adoption. This includes thinking differently about patient acquisition. With telehealth, you are no longer competing for healthcare consumers in your local area. Now, you're competing with other health systems and providers across the country. Everything the healthcare marketer knows about patient acquisition, retention, satisfaction, and reputation management will shift as you go virtual. Here are four ways you can shift your patient acquisition strategy to attract and win new patients as you grow your telehealth program.
Segment Your Target Market
Not every appointment is right for a telehealth visit. Consider which services are best to transition online, including your classes and events. Once you have identified your telehealth offerings, it's time to determine your target audiences for each offering. Consider creating patient personas complete with demographic information such as age, gender, and type of insurance as well their medical needs and what motivates them to seek care. You may have one persona for patients who regularly access a patient portal and are comfortable using technology such as smart phones, tablets, and computers. Another persona could be created for older patient populations who may be more comfortable with a phone consultation. Segmenting your target audience will help boost your marketing efforts by providing relevant messaging and offers to the right patients at the right time.
Define Your Positioning and Messaging Strategy
With your newly created patient personas, you can now begin to craft the right messaging that will resonate with your target audience. Start with a competitive analysis, keeping in mind your competition could now be in another state. Then determine what is unique and differentiates your telehealth offering from your competitor. Is your top neurosurgeon offering telehealth visits in an area with poor neuro servicing? Do you have an award-winning pediatrician seeing patients online after parent working hours? Use these differentiators to your advantage and position your service accordingly.
Boost Your Reputation Management Plan
Managing your reputation will become even more difficult in a virtual environment if you don't provide a positive experience. How well do your physicians show empathy online? Is it as reassuring and comforting as an in-person visit? What about the quality and speed of your broadband or the responsiveness of your chosen telehealth platform? These will all be areas in which patients will now be rating their visits. Before engaging in a telehealth visit, fully test your tools and technology as well as practice virtual visits with your team before moving on to real patient visits. Don't forget to check in with patients after their virtual visit and ask for feedback. Be sure to monitor social media and online reviews as well for specific telehealth feedback that you can take back to operations for continuous improvement.
Continue Delivering Proactive Communications
Patients who attend telehealth appointments should have regular proactive communications, just like in-office visits. In addition to providing regular confirmations, reminders, tech support calls, and follow up surveys, consider using a message broadcast tool to provide announcements of new service lines and physicians taking telehealth visits. You can also provide helpful tips on how to prepare for a telehealth visit to ensure patients have the best possible experience.
Patients crave convenience. And with the recent spike in telehealth adoption, it's poised for continued growth and adoption with the right patient engagement strategy.
To learn more about telehealth and the best practices you shouldn't overlook when creating your virtual patient care strategy, download our latest eBook.