During this pandemic, telehealth services are saving countless people from potentially spreading or contracting the coronavirus. Many patients — and providers — using this technology will want it to stick around long-term.

If your organization hadn’t fully employed virtual visits until the coronavirus, you might have dabbled in telehealth. Do your patients request prescription renewals through email or an app? Can patients communicate with providers through MyChart? Have you ever emailed or texted patients a post-visit survey? If so, congrats! You’re already in the world of marketing telehealth.

Types of Telemedicine

There are a few varieties of telemedicine services:

  • Virtual visits: Video consultation between provider and patient
  • Remote patient monitoring (RPM): Collecting health data remotely, such as a blood pressure cuff that sends data to the doctor
  • Mobile health (mHealth): Apps that track your health (like fitness trackers) or transmit data to your provider (like MyChart by Epic)
  • Store-and-forward technology: Telemedicine that occurs between providers and specialists (instead of patients and providers).

According to The American Telemedicine Association, more than half of hospitals in the U.S. use telemedicine. And as hospitals and medical practices work to protect themselves and their patients while confronting COVID-19, many more are entering into the telehealth market.

Marketing Telehealth Services

While we grapple with COVID-19, your organization is probably transitioning patients to using telemedicine. Most patients understand that telehealth can help them stay safe during this time of “shelter in place” without compromising on the care they need.

But if you plan to continue to use telemedicine services once this pandemic is behind us, you’ll need to come up with a marketing strategy to encourage people to participate.

1. Determine your organization’s goals

Before marketing new telehealth services, providers and marketers should meet. Find out:

  • Why providers are excited about telemedicine services and what they hope to gain?
  • What your organization’s goals are: Do you want to reach more patients? Or communicate more often with current patients? Pick one to focus on first.

2. Define the messaging

Communicate the value that telemedicine offers patients. Explain the benefits. But also go into logistics. Dive into the details when introducing telehealth services and answer patients’ questions before they ask them:

  • Is the online portal safe? Will my privacy be protected?
  • Do I need to download software?
  • How do I set up and access the service?
  • How long will it take for my provider to get back to me?

3. Broadcast the message to your patients

When marketing telehealth, use every channel available to get the word out. Tap into the traditional channels like social media, pamphlets and SEO-rich web pages. But use other avenues as well:

  • Ask providers and receptionists to spread the word: When making follow-up appointments, have staffers offer telehealth options. And the audio messaging patients hear when they’re on hold should include information about how to access telemedicine services.
  • Add CTAs to location pages: When potential patients look up your facilities, include telehealth opportunities. They’ll be able to access your services from the best location, after all — their own home!
  • Include telehealth info on urgent care and ED pages: Most hospitals have a page explaining when a patient should visit an urgent care center versus the emergency department. Add telemedicine options to that page as well, informing patients when they can save themselves a visit entirely.

The coronavirus pandemic will shape many aspects of healthcare for years to come. One outcome may be proving the efficiency of telehealth and its beneficial role in healthcare. The emergency aid bill that Congress recently passed even loosened restrictions for the use of telemedicine for people on Medicaid. Let’s get through this tough time together and continue to support and communicate with patients in the best ways possible.

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