It was stunning to witness the explosion and adoption of telehealth in the healthcare industry. Just over a year ago, before the COVID impact, the tele-techno adoption rate was zero to glacial at best.
But suddenly, the healthcare industry was transformed from top to bottom. Of necessity, healthcare systems, hospitals and medical practices responded with a dramatic change. And it’s likely that many changes—including telehealth services—are here to stay.
The healthcare industry reinvented its delivery systems in crisis mode. But both providers and patients have come to embrace the benefits of telehealth in no small way.
In its various forms and functions, telehealth (AKA telemedicine, e-health, tele-education, remote medicine, telemedical, mobile health, m-health) has become a powerful and widely accepted new tool. Including tech-enabled delivery in the healthcare mix can reach more patients, enhance the patient experience and the continuum of care. What’s more, it appears that tech-enabled wearables and personal/ monitoring accessories are emerging with the Internet of Things (IoT).
For hospitals, doctors and healthcare practices, the new digital front door is now in place. Some providers have already been making good use of the new environment. Many others may need to pause and consider how this industry evolution shapes the new normal for them.
The major challenge is how to leverage telehealth services and technology for greater performance. Healthcare marketing now demands a new perspective. This service is an excellent opportunity to differentiate and take a leadership position. (And to do so ahead of the competition.)
When we teach healthcare marketing, we often refer to the “Seven P Formula,” i.e., Price, Place, Product, Positioning, Packaging, People and Promotion.
All seven may need to be considered, but the following are most relevant.
PRODUCT: Your product/service mix of business has likely changed. The target audience has new expectations. In the new normal, are these right for the new audience? What services are most in-demand for today’s patient consumers? In-person, face-to-face patient encounters are not going away, of course. And there’s a practical limit to what can be achieved remotely. But patients like the greater convenience and providers report gains in office productivity, timeliness and quality care. What’s more, doctor-to-doctor connections are a plus for providers and referring colleagues. Same-day appointments and shorter encounters often benefit both the provider and patient. Telehealth platforms and software are nearly as handy as a stethoscope. There’s an even greater value when some functions are automated. Intake Forms, sign-in and follow-up contacts, as well as online scheduling for appointments, can all be automated today.
PLACE: The point of view—of both the patient and the provider—has changed. It is no longer the brick-and-mortar location alone. The provider may or may not be “in the office” for the encounter. Patient and provider enjoy the convenience of the nearest internet connection. Patient access is expanded for first visits, monitoring, consultations, screenings, professional consults, follow-ups, after-care, care planning and case management, and the like.
Competitive note: Broadly redefining “place” also opens the telehealth digital door to major national services. It’s still essential to have a sense of local (nearby and convenient) connection with the community.
POSITIONING: Is there a fundamental change in how you are positioned in the hearts and minds of your customers? The COVID-world and telehealth services have changed the appearance and reorganized healthcare delivery. What primary characteristics or attributes do patients use to describe the practice? Convenience is a critical factor for most consumers. A new and critical consideration here is that these same forces of change have also impacted the competitive environment. This is a significant opportunity, but the “first movers” of telehealth marketing will have the most critical influence and competitive advantage.
PACKAGING: In the telehealth strategy, health systems and hospitals can package it as part of their convenient mix of services, e.g., family care, urgent care, emergency room and telehealth.
PROMOTION: The challenge is to positively differentiate your services, and communicate your leadership position, to the critical target audiences. These include:
The family and caregiver audience can be essential when the patient base is older and perhaps homebound.
Technology enhances the provider-patient connection, the patient experience, practice operations as well as the bottom line. Promote this new level of convenience that has universal consumer appeal.
Here are some of the best ways to implement your marketing plan and carry that message to your critical audiences.
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky reminds us that: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” The COVID year ignited many advancements for provider and patient. And now the “smart skaters” – meaning hospitals, doctors, health systems – can get ahead of the techno-puck and pick up on new healthcare marketing opportunities.
Now and for the future, these:
Most patients want it. They like the “comfort and convenience” advantages, and they expect these positive changes (and more) as the norm. This is a timely, win-win opportunity to expand and promote telehealth services. (Caution: Your alert competition may have the same opportunity.)
Positive changes have reshaped the healthcare industry, and your marketing message needs to reflect the benefits of virtual care and telemedicine.
If your telehealth marketing plan needs a fresh perspective, connect with us to explore how to leverage your message ahead of the competition.