How to Build Your Brand in the Era of Telemedicine
One of the biggest impacts to the US healthcare system during the Covid-19 pandemic was the tremendous growth in telemedicine services. Prior to 2020, there were numerous barriers (regulatory, payment, credentialing and privileging, etc.) to any sort of broad national utilization of telemedicine. That all changed in the early months of the pandemic.
In the late winter and early spring of 2020, access to care challenges along patient and provider safety precautions all led to a rapid lowering of many of the barriers which in turn led to rapid growth in the access in the range of telemedicine services offered. For example, a report by the CDC shows that telehealth visits were up by 154% for a week in March 2020 versus the same week in March 2019. A Frost & Sullivan report last year estimated that telehealth would increase 65% in 2020 and that over the next five years there would be an annual compounded growth rate of almost 40% annually.
The impact of (and subsequent payment for) virtual appointments and the expanded usage of virtual patient monitoring technology are leading to a new way for care to be delivered. A natural byproduct of this transformation is that patients and their families/advocates are interacting with healthcare systems and healthcare brands in a very different way.
Like all rapid, societal changes, this explosion of telehealth provides both opportunities and challenges for healthcare marketers and communicators. A key challenge is that with fewer and fewer patients coming to your campus or practice, you are losing two key elements to your brand:
1) personal interaction with patients/healthcare consumers; and
2) ability to message about additional products and services to patients/healthcare consumers while they are in your facility.
This rapid movement to telehealth also creates opportunities for healthcare marketers and communicators. Some of the key brand-building opportunities are:
- Be the “Telehealth” education leader – There is much confusion and apprehension for many patients about moving towards telehealth. There is concern about the safety and confidentiality of personal health information and the perceived lack of empathy without an in person visit, especially when talking with a new provider. There is a tremendous opportunity and brand value to be a market leader by providing an ongoing branded series of communications (i.e., infographics, explainer videos, patient or provide testimonials, etc.) to position your facility and brand as the telehealth “expert.” Just as you educate the community about important public health and wellness issues, you can and should educate about this new treatment methodology.
- Family member consultation and discharge planning – Telemedicine follow-up visits gives organizations and providers the opportunity to be part of follow-up visits as appropriate. The telemedicine visits give you the opportunity to further connect your brand and services with a broader audience. Consideration needs to be given in these consults on how to share the discharge information and potential follow-up appointments in a succinct manner.
- Social messaging and digital campaigns - The movement to telemedicine creates new opportunities to expand your brand to very targeted audiences. There are clear early adopters to telemedicine. Expansion of social and digital campaigns to target these audiences will be vital to supplement the traditional interactions that are vanishing.
The changes that Covid-19 brought to the healthcare system will be long-lasting. So will our approach to brand building in the new era of telemedicine.