September 25, 2023

Telehealth is here to stay; what marketers need to know

As healthcare organizations invest in telehealth, marketers are charged with getting the word out and shaping the experience.

Telehealth has become increasingly more important in the aftermath of Covid-19. When medical offices and mental health practices were closed or severely limited to in-person visits, video- and voice-based care caught on. And it continues to be a great option for many patients. 

According to one healthcare expert, telehealth has the potential to reduce disparities in access to care and expertise, especially in rural areas with fewer medical resources. With an ongoing workforce shortage in the medical field, patients have to wait longer to schedule appointments and see their doctors. Video chats, phone calls, remote monitoring, and other tech-enabled connections create alternate pathways that can get people more quickly to the care they need. 

In addition to moving more patients in and out more quickly, telehealth makes it easier for primary care providers to consult with specialists and serve patients more efficiently. This can happen directly during a patient’s office visit, or through a video chat that connects the PCP, patient, and specialist.  

If telehealth is here to stay, then it’s essential that your healthcare organization improves its digital presence, not only to let people know you offer virtual visits but to improve their experience.

Marketing Telehealth Services

Many patients and prospects likely haven’t yet taken advantage of telemedicine. They might be skeptical: it’s too informal and impersonal, or not private or secure, or too hard to navigate. Some of the best prospects for virtual health visits—seniors who are less mobile—may be unsure about using a computer or automated system. So marketers have a lot of work to do to promote this kind of care. 

There are multiple ways in which you can tailor your marketing strategies to benefit your audience. You have to think like a patient and anticipate the questions or concerns they’ll have about seeing a doctor or therapist virtually. Frame your messaging from the patient’s point of view 

And focus on the benefits they’ll get from this type of care. Explain that they’ll get great treatment via telehealth, more easily and more quickly than if they were to wait for an in-person appointment. Reassure them of the safety and confidentiality of conversations.  

Talk not only about the what and the how, but the why—highlight the results. Testimonials and outcomes and patient stories are smart comms tactics here: How did patients feel about their e-visits, how successfully were they treated, how comfortable did they feel? A follow-up survey of telehealth patients can reveal positive comments and negative experiences, both of which are useful.

Because the target audience is so varied, you’ll want to build a fully integrated campaign to promote your telehealth offering. Because the service is digital in nature, there will always be digital components ranging from a landing page for the campaign, social media advertising, and a Google search and display ads. When we work with clients to launch a new telehealth initiative, we’ll typically create an initial three-month push, after which the messaging remains part of an ongoing marketing plan.  

Don’t overlook print media, especially in rural communities. Direct mailers, newspaper advertising, and billboards can be more expensive, but they’re effective in covering a broad geographical area. For primary care offices, create sell sheets that can be posted on bulletin boards or handed out at the reception desk. 

Once patients respond to your marketing, or if they’re searching online for virtual care, they’ll need somewhere to go to book an appointment. That means creating a landing page for telehealth on your website where people can find out more and use a scheduling tool. If the organization aims to develop a robust virtual medicine practice, the landing page can’t be buried deep in departmental navigation; it needs to be prominent on the homepage.

Know that you’ll have skeptics among your staff, too. So build an internal campaign that educates practitioners about the service and gives them confidence to recommend it to patients and to use the platform themselves.  

Improving the Telehealth Experience for Patients

Once you’ve persuaded patients that telehealth is right for them, marketers have a role in smoothing out their experience. To a degree, IT people are driving this work, but marketers need to understand the service and how it’s delivered. 

You likely have little influence on how third-party tools like schedulers, telecom or video platforms, and automated emails work. But you probably can craft the messaging for landing pages and emails to set patients’ expectations, guide them easily through the process, remind them of appointments, even troubleshoot potential connectivity issues. Walk through the steps yourself from the patient’s point of view and look closely for points of confusion or friction. Infographics can be a great way to show people how to sign up and log on for an e-visit. And use patient surveys to identify pain points that clearer communication can help relieve.  

While you’re investigating the user experience, check out the other digital tools your organization expects patients to use regularly—a patient portal, wait time indicator for your urgent care locations, provider directory, online pharmacy. These all fall under the telehealth umbrella. And any time someone finds them hard to use, they’ll lose trust in your brand.  

Telehealth is still an emerging service for many healthcare organizations. And marketers can have a lot of influence over how enthusiastically patients adopt it. We’ve helped healthcare networks successfully promote their virtual options and build telehealth into a thriving line of business. Let’s talk about what your brand needs.