By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Some observers predict that Verizon’s new platform for virtual doctor visits will be a game-changer. Like it or not, with the global communications giant jumping into interactive telehealth, the big splash will advance the evolution of healthcare delivery…and impact your future marketing plans.
Recently, the company unveiled Verizon Virtual Visits, aimed at adoption by group medical practices, hospitals, health plans and others. Although digital consultations and telehealth technology have been growing, Verizon is, by far, the biggest industry player to enter the sector, and their size alone is an important factor.
The recent announcement describes their service as, “an easy, convenient and cost-effective way for patients to be seen remotely by a clinician for a cold, flu, sore throat or other simple, acute conditions, via video on their smartphone, tablet or computer.
“Verizon’s new solution is built to provide an enterprise-class platform for health systems, health plans and employers to meet the needs of their specific patient or member population base, helping to reduce visits to the emergency room for non-urgent care.” [Read the full announcement here.]
Consumers love their small screens…
There’s strong evidence that patients (even prospective patients and caregivers) like physician connectivity. For one, it is designed with the pervasive and ever-present mobile screen in mind, and that makes it convenient and immediate for users.
The Verizon system enables physicians to electronically issue prescriptions to pharmacies, provide referral to patients and other convenience-driven features. Behind the scenes, Verizon’s technical structure is designed to be HIPAA compliant. (Plus, there’s an added sense of reliability and compatibility if Verizon happens to be the wireless carrier.)
Virtual Visits Are Coming to a Group Practice Near You
An unknown factor—which Verizon does not address—is: What do doctors think about virtual visits? Obviously, Verizon Enterprise Solutions sees a growing business opportunity, but we wonder if they, and several other companies in this niche, have taken into account the willingness and desire of doctors to conduct the interactive patient encounters?
On one hand, doctors are often concerned that “remote visits” are a disconnect from the necessary, human-to-human patient encounter of medicine. Further, long-standing issues with physicians have been compensation and time management.
Each provider sets the price, but Verizon and others suggest that a virtual visit will cost the patient less than an in-office visit. And if doctors can be more productive and see more patients in the same amount of office time, the revenue generated is higher.
As we see it: Adopt or defend…
Compensation, productivity and quality of care issues are being addressed and gradually resolved. And as they are, physicians will essentially have three options to consider:
You can “wait and see.” Technology and healthcare delivery have, and will continue to, converge and evolve. Timing is one thing, but eventuality is another.
You can “prepare to defend.” The rate of adoption may vary within a market, but the intensity of local competition will cause some group practices will embrace the technology sooner. Marketing from a defensive position is usually an up-hill climb.
You can “proactively adopt.” Being first to market with a compelling new service feature is often a competitive advantage and a clear point of differentiation.
In our view, leadership in marketing has the advantage. While virtual visits may not be appropriate for every provider, it’s clear that they are becoming increasingly common. For many situations, it is a technology advance that benefits both the medical practice and the patient population.
For more on this topic, see our earlier articles: Physician Practices Revisit Telehealth to Monetize Time and Differentiate and The Future Demise of Hospitals and Other Revolutionary Predictions.
We’d like to hear from you. What’s your attitude about virtual healthcare patient visits, and do you have a viable (proactive or defensive) marketing strategy?