The COVID-19 pandemic has forced health systems and providers to accelerate their telehealth strategies as well as other forms of digital innovation in response to the pandemic and its impact on nearly every aspect of normal life. The upside is that a virtual visit program can be far more valuable as we move beyond the initial response to the pandemic than simply as a fix to a short-term problem.
Patients who have experienced the ease of access and the convenience of virtual visits from their own homes won't all revert back to in-person visits once it's safe to do so. In fact, two-thirds of respondents in a survey of healthcare consumers say that COVID-19 increased their willingness to try telehealth in the future. Likewise, providers who've converted many patients to virtual visits will want to continue offering telehealth options to patients in the future because of the many benefits of doing so for both themselves and their patients.
As you redefine your patient experience strategy, the availability and ease of access to virtual visits can and should play an important role in attracting patients to your health system. At the same time, broader acceptance and adoption of telehealth removes some geographic barriers for patients. Now, they can seek out telehealth visits with a wider choice of providers, not just those located nearest to them. For the marketing team, this means your health system is no longer competing with only the providers down the street but essentially any provider (most likely within the same state) accepted by the patient's insurance or, for that matter, any provider for which a patient feels is worth going out of network for their care and expertise.
But how can you compete with an expanded set of providers and health systems offering care via telehealth? The answer is to refine and adapt your current patient acquisition strategy to focus on delivering a frictionless journey for healthcare consumers looking for a provider.
Here are some things to consider as you incorporate a telehealth program into your patient acquisition strategy:
- The Virtual Journey— With telehealth visits as an option, patients may rarely visit your facilities in person. Their digital journey—from searching for a provider and scheduling a virtual visit to delivery of care and follow-up—should be easy and convenient to attract and retain today's healthcare consumers.
- A New Experience for Consumers—Many potential patients may not realize the full benefits of using telehealth for their care. They might not see virtual visits as a viable alternative or adjunct to traditional, in-person care. This is where examples and storytelling in your marketing campaigns can help you inform potential patients and get them interested and excited about telehealth options.
- Scheduling Hurdles—Think about the potential disconnects for the healthcare consumer who comes to your website. What might keep them from scheduling an appointment for a telehealth visit? A clunky or time-consuming provider search that doesn't help them easily find providers with availability for virtual visits might cause a potential new patient to hesitate before booking an appointment. Why? Because they don't believe the experience will be easy or satisfying based on the level of effort required to even get a telehealth appointment scheduled in the first place.
- Search Engine Optimization—Make sure you have a solid strategy for getting found online. To help your health system appear under the first few results on a search engine page, you'll need to focus on search engine optimization (SEO), including the use of strategic keywords, consistently updated and high-quality content, and social media. For more ideas, read our blog: Four Simple Steps for Telehealth Marketing.
- Google Display—Optimize what Google displays in your health system's profile on the right-hand side of the results page. Aside from making sure that all the information there is correct, add a link for appointments (including virtual visits) to create an immediate call to action.
- Promotion—Make sure that both consumers and existing patients know that telehealth is an option available to them when they schedule an appointment. Actively promote your health system's telehealth program and its benefits as well as virtual classes and events.
- Optimizing Conversion— Convert healthcare consumers from website visitors to patients by enabling them to book an appointment quickly and conveniently. Offering online scheduling for virtual visits makes it easy for consumers to choose your health system over those that don't offer online convenience. At the same time, provide a seamless, efficient scheduling service via live voice for those consumers who prefer scheduling by phone.
Deriving the full benefit of a telehealth program requires more than deploying new technology to support video calls in a healthcare setting. The actual virtual visit is only one touchpoint in the end-to-end patient experience. To succeed with telehealth initiatives and grow revenue, marketing and patient experience teams will need a new strategy for patient acquisition. It is critical to make the overall search and book experience frictionless. To learn more about creating a frictionless virtual patient care strategy, download our eBook.