The Explosive Rise of Telemedicine Will Challenge Your Healthcare Marketing Plan

Animated computer screen displaying doctor on the screen Today, nearly anyone with online access can see a doctor or healthcare professional immediately. No appointment, no travel, no waiting, no hassle.

A computer, smartphone or tablet increasingly connects patients and providers via live, two-way video consultation—24/7/365. What’s more, the typical insurance co-pay is relatively low, and for some people, employers cover the cost.

This trend, driven by immediacy, convenience and Internet technology, is exploding on several fronts, and it is certain to challenge your healthcare, hospital or practice marketing plan. Here’s a snapshot of what’s here and now…and some of what you can expect to see soon.

The high altitude perspective reveals that most US hospitals are gearing up for telemedicine. About 200 networks serve some 3,500 facilities in delivering clinical services, according to the American Telemedicine Association. Telemedicine or tele health services routinely facilitate remote monitoring and information exchange, and more recently, applications and services connect with patients using “two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.”

Going big: Mercy’s virtual care and telemedicine command center…

Described as the first virtual care center and the nation’s largest single hub teleICU, such as Engadget—report seeing a “Help-outs style feature that offers video chats with doctors when you search for symptoms.”

During this test period, there’s no cost to the consumer for “doctor chats” (something that is likely to change), doctor-patient communications are reportedly “HIPAA-compliant,” and advisory statements caution that video consultations are not a replacement for an actual doctor office visit.

Online services, health plans and others…

We can’t predict if or when Google’s doctor-consult feature will move beyond the test phase, but it seems like fertile business ground and Google is a powerhouse in Internet search. Several online doctor companies and insurance providers are carving out shares in a growing market sector.

Online Care Anywhere is an online health care service from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Each video visit costs $40. If their employer doesn’t pick up the tab, patients can pay using a healthcare spending account, a flexible spending account, or by credit card. Doctor on Demand takes $10 of that money, and the doctor gets the rest,” reports VentureBeat.

Teladoc—perhaps the nation’s largest telehealth provider—contracts “with insurers and large employers to provide video doctor visits for members and employees, who get 24/7 access to a network of doctors for non-emergency medical issues,” says VB News. “The doctor visits can happen via phone, online video, mobile app, or through HealthSpot kiosks.”

Some services are two-way video chat, while others provide for email exchange. Some include provisions for prescriptions through a local pharmacy. Other companies and service providers in this arena include First Stop Health, American Well, MeMD, InteractiveMD and Livehealth online.

FOR RELATED READING, see our previous post titled: Like It or Not: Doctors Can’t Ignore Virtual Healthcare Visits.

Author: Lonnie Hirsch

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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