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Why Telehealth of Tomorrow Belongs in Your Marketing Plan Today

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Lightbulb made out of multiple words with "Telehealth" standing out in red fontChange isn’t coming; it’s an ever-present consideration. Simply keeping pace is the challenge for physicians, medical practice administrators and hospital leadership.

Telehealth—and its various facets—continues to emerge as an important and strong change agent. And two recent, in-depth reports provide guidance for doctors, industry executives and forward-looking marketing professionals.

As a component of health transformation, Deloitte’sEmpowering Patients with Telehealth(available free, online) predicts:

“Telehealth—the provision of high-quality, real-time video encounters between patients and providers—is a powerful tool that can support healthier patients. At its core, telehealth aims to provide care anytime, anywhere, on any type of device—be it a web browser, a mobile phone or tablet, or a standalone kiosk. When telehealth is fully integrated into an existing health care system, patients have access to on-demand care from an accredited provider with the touch of a button.”

In this look toward a new and more flexible infrastructure, the Deloitte report envisions greater flexibility and benefits for both provider and patient. “Powered by the convenience, ease, and affordability of telehealth, providers and patients alike could no longer be burdened by office hours, or the longstanding paradigm that patients bear the responsibility of physically traveling to the care they require.”

The Deloitte paper examines several related case studies, and describes a general, seven-step approach to the successful deployment of a telehealth solution. Of particular note for marketing and healthcare communicators, Step 6 considers patient and caregiver outreach strategy.

In this scenario, communications planners would consider attributes of early adopters, points of prospective resistance (technology limitations or privacy concerts, for example), and analyzing feedback issues. Appropriate marketing and communications messages will be needed for both patients and providers.

The intersection of convenience and informed patients…

The pervasive availability of the Internet, combined with advances in computer technology and medical science have collectively driven patient and provider benefits, as well as the growth of telehealth. The mutual convenience factors alone save time and reduce costs.

Studies have consistently demonstrated that Internet savvy patients welcome greater connectivity with their doctors when it’s available. What’s more, the patient satisfaction ratings with telehealth encounters are exceptionally high.

The downside, however, is that healthcare in general has been slow to embrace telehealth advantages, primarily due to issues of physician reimbursement. One aspect of this is being addressed via telehealth parity laws—now in 29 states and the District of Columbia—that require telehealth reimbursement to match an in-person doctor visit.

It seems inevitable that digitally empowered patients and technology will continue to drive wider adoption of healthcare and provider connectivity. According to an in-depth study available from SalesForce, the State of the Connected Patient, health care consumers find value in being able to schedule appointments, manage doctor bills, track test results and health records. Most of these are presently facilitated by in-person contacts; but online, email and text connectivity is growing.

For the typical patient/consumer, it would only seem natural for connectivity and telehealth services to play a larger, integrated role in the healthcare delivery system. Video calls, email, text messages and smartphones have become standard and routine communications paths in many aspects of everyday living. Informed, empowered and connected individuals hold the same expectations for healthcare delivery today.

For related reading, see these previous articles from Healthcare Success:

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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