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What’s Driving Telehealth to More Hospitals and Doctors in 2016

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

The diverse faces of telehealth—from virtual doctor consultations to remotely monitored patients—are continuing on a solid growth path. One assessment, by IHS Technology, says that doctors’ virtual consults with patients will double in less than five years, reports Forbes.

Marketing strategies for hospitals, doctors and health systems will continue to adjust to keep up with the adoption curve, and that alone will further fuel consumer demand. In addition, here are some of the other key driving forces:

Empowered consumers expect convenience. One of the most important dynamics in healthcare delivery is the growing awareness that the passive patient of the past has become today’s empowered customer. Conditioned by their experience in the retail world, convenience is the new baseline expectation in healthcare. Consumers are already using the technology that would enable them to communicate with providers by email or text, or to make online appointments.

Self-service medical kiosks are a competitive alternative. The rise in telepresence “doc-in-a-box” options is an appealing option for some value-minded individuals who may or may not have insurance coverage.

Major provider networks are embracing virtual healthcare. Some coverages have expanded to allow plan members to connect with a primary care physician, seeing “the potential to avoid a more expensive trip to a hospital emergency room.” Further, some payors encourage cost effective virtual solutions for their contribution to prevention, patient compliance and better outcomes.

Broadband availability, enabling remote monitoring, is mainstream. The Internet and advances in technology are widely available to facilitate rapid adoption and expansion.

Virtual visits save provider time and reduce costs. From 40 to 50 percent of “PCP visits can be converted to virtual appointments, resulting in potential savings of $11 billion,” according to a recent study by UCSF School of Pharmacy and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“Savings may be just as great, if not more, from the clinician’s point of view, as there is a clear need for increased efficiency. A typical in-office visit for a patient with a chronic issue is about 15 minutes, with an additional two minutes for documentation. With a virtual visit, this becomes about 3.6 minutes including documentation.”

Hospital and doctor marketing efforts need to keep pace with the advances in, and the public demand for, telehealth and virtual healthcare benefits for patients.

For related reading on this topic, see our previous article, The Digital-Digital Trend in Doctor-Patient Encounters. And let us know how the appeal (and the resistance) of telehealth has influenced your marketing strategy.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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