telemedicine Archives - Binary Fountain

ATA 2020: Our Top Five Takeaways

ata-2020ATA 2020 was this year’s annual conference hosted by the American Telehealth Association. The ATA is the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth.

ATA 2020 has been a fascinating look into the potential and future of telehealth in the US healthcare system. Attending professionals and leaders have access to hours of talks with thought leaders. Attendees will likely bring back a wealth of insights as they return to their organizations. For those that couldn’t attend, here are our top five takeaways.

The Opportunity for Change Is Larger Than the Explosive Growth

Thanks to COVID-19, many experts now agree that telehealth and virtual care was underused before COVID-19. However, ATA 2020 attendees will know that technology wasn’t the primary holdup. Telehealth simply wasn’t a priority before it was the only way to safely see patients.

COVID-19 has created a moment similar to the 1973-1974 oil crisis. After the oil crisis, the US energy industry restricted itself to maximize oil production and ensure we never again experience a national shortage. This moment could help ensure patients never again experience a shortage of access to healthcare.

The current pandemic crisis has put telehealth in the spotlight and temporarily removed some regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles. The healthcare industry will certainly work to solidify some of these gains and come into long-term compliance with others. But it will need to make the most of the moment.

Heightened exposure to telehealth will likely be a long-term gain. However, healthcare systems will need to work with the government and payers to reach long term regulatory and payment agreements. Some issues, such as disagreements on reimbursement between providers and payers, may reemerge once the pandemic ends.

Conversational Agents will Supercharge Telehealth

Conversational agents were a major topic at ATA 2020. This technology interacts with patients through conversations. This includes text chatbots and vocal spoken word equivalents. These agents use Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology to “understand” users and make responses.

Binary Fountain users will already be familiar with NLP and may have heard how Steward Medical used it to analyze their telemedicine surveys. They discovered their providers were receiving positive feedback around their webside manner.

The NLP powered conversation agents will revolutionize American telemedicine by eliminating provider administrative burden. Chatbots are already capable of being the first point of contact for patients seeking care. Chatbots can gather patient information and answer standard questions.

Conversational agents can also direct patient traffic through healthcare systems. If the agent determines that a virtual or in-person exam is necessary, it can even direct patients to the correct specialist.

Conversational agents could also help providers during live telehealth examinations. Vocal NLP technology could take notes on patients as they speak to providers, reducing their administrative burden. Dedicated telehealth platforms can help further by packaging the patient information and transferring it to the next provider automatically.

Vocal conversational agents will even assist in-person staff. Product development is underway for an Amazon Alexa-like tool to reduce the burden on nurses. The devices will answer simple questions like “what’s on the menu for dinner” and “when are visiting hours?”

Patients may also be able to make requests or alert the staff to sudden changes in their condition. This system saves nurses the task of figuring out what the patient needs and prioritizing their requests.

This could streamline simple tasks such as needing a new pillow. It would cut response times in high priority situations, such as a patient experiencing sudden health changes.

Some Healthcare Systems Will Need to Re-Platform After COVID-19

COVID-19 forced healthcare systems to institute multi-month changes in a matter of days. Many healthcare IT teams did incredible work to achieve this for their institutions. Of course, some of their solutions will not be appropriate for long-term implementation.

Some of the video platforms currently being used for telehealth are common video conferencing tools. As a result, most are not HIPPA compliant. Tools not specifically designed for telehealth do not have integration features with other common healthcare software for information sharing.

HIPPA compliance and other regulations have been relaxed for now. Eventually, the security issues will have to be addressed once COVID-19 subsides. However, software integration for information sharing will likely be a long-term concern for health care systems.

Diversity Will Be Key to Success

Currently, many telehealth tools are designed for higher-level income individuals. This is common for developing tech products. However, looking forward, telehealth will need to grow its base to service large payers and their inclusive member networks.

Telehealth must be developed to engage all groups, all genders, ethnicities, income levels, and levels of health and technological literacy.

The groups designing telehealth software and supporting hardware need to be staffed with diversity in mind. We’re in an age of precision medicine, so these tools will need to work across the industry for all patients. We’ll need diverse voices at the drawing board to ensure the technology can hyper-focus on all health issues.

We can look to tech products as a warning as to what happens when developers lack diversity. Non-diverse developers have created facial recognition software with a preference for white men and racist AI.

Clearly, we cannot allow discrimination in health care, and diversity will be key to preventing it. Organizations with actionable diversity policies will likely create the best upcoming product options.

Telehealth Will Graft into the Nervous System of Healthcare

COVID-19 has helped normalize the industry adoption of telehealth as a new means for providers to see their patients. This function alone has the potential to improve the lives of both parties. But telehealth has the potential to do so much more.

Telehealth enhanced by conversational agents can help health systems coordinate and orchestrate care. NLP powered technology could assist providers during virtual and in-person care, and even take over some administrative tasks. Thanks to NLP, chatbots will be able to near-entirely take over patient intake.

This high potential could make telehealth become the front door of healthcare and assist throughout the entire patient journey. Telehealth tools will be able to save, package, and circulate the data they collect as patients move through the health system. It’ll cut down on provider administrative burden and increase the quality of patient care. Maybe most importantly, it’ll expand healthcare access and help to ensure that no patient “slips through the cracks.”

ATA 2020 made it clear that the future of healthcare is connected health, and telehealth could help us achieve it.

For more on telehealth, telemedicine, and virtual online care, browse these related posts:


Telemedicine Ratings: How to Improve Your Virtual Patient Experience

virtual-patient-experienceThe adoption of telemedicine is shifting into hyper-drive, with virtual healthcare interactions on pace to top 1 billion by year’s end. One of the largest telemedicine platforms, Teladoc, reported 15,000+ virtual patient requests per day in mid-March, and the pace has only quickened since then.

When we surveyed hundreds of healthcare marketers about which projects they are planning post-COVID-19, telemedicine was the top response, with 50% saying it is a major upcoming initiative.

The changed focus is necessary, but healthcare providers are finding that virtual visits are far different from in-person care.

How do you ensure that your providers’ telemedicine appointments are as effective as office visits?

New information, best practices and skillsets are now needed for communicating with patients across a video screen, from miles away. Here are practical considerations to share with physicians and staff that are starting to engage in telemedicine for the first time.

Telemedicine Equipment and Technical Considerations

It won’t be easy for all your organization’s physicians to get comfortable with telemedicine, but the right equipment and technical know-how will start them on the right foot.

When considering the setup for virtual visits, imagine the visit from the patient’s point of view. Even if you’re using a makeshift office in your guestroom during the pandemic, you can clean any clutter, angle your camera for a tidy background, and close doors and windows to block background noise.

Here are more tips on telemedicine equipment that will improve the perception of your virtual visits:

  • Lighting can have a major effect on video quality. Turn on overhead lights and a desk lamp if available, and try to avoid having light-filled windows in the background.
  • Use a high-quality webcam so patients can clearly see your face and feel more comfortable speaking about their symptoms and care options. Today’s webcams are relatively inexpensive – you won’t have to spend more than $100 for sufficient performance.
  • Position your camera at eye level to make it easier to maintain eye contact with patients and make clear that you are focused exclusively on them.
  • Use wired headphones, if available, that have a built-in microphone for good sound quality. Most regular laptop microphones won’t pick up your voice clearly enough, and wireless headphones risk disconnecting or running out of battery during the visit.

In addition, make sure your technology support team’s contact information is easily accessible. Technical problems can and will happen, and you’ll want that sticky note available when you need it.

Before the Virtual Visit

Once your equipment is sorted out, there’s more to do in preparation for a high-quality telemedicine appointment that will produce desired outcomes and attract loyal patients.

Virtual patients will need to adjust to telemedicine just like providers, so make sure to engage patients beforehand with instructions on how to use the technology. You could prepare a cheat sheet with screenshots to send to patients before their first virtual visit, and consider doing a test visit before the actual appointment. A Massachusetts Medical Society study found that when staff does a day-before test visit with first-time telemedicine patients, the call completion rate approached 100% and visit completion increased from 60% to 96%.

Just like any other visit, take whatever time you have before logging in to read the patient complaint and their medical record. Virtual visits are generally more efficient than in-person ones, and off-screen preparation will help make them even faster.

You can also consider addressing insurance and billing options with patients before a video consultation. Billing for telemedicine is a moving target as states and insurers make changes and exceptions in the wake of COVID-19, so patients are bound to have questions and will want to get the most out of their time.

An optional but worthwhile consideration for providers is wearing your white coat or other medical uniform and making sure your badge is visible. Small adjustments like this can make major differences in the patient’s perception of their visit, which will be reflected in online reviews and survey feedback.

During the Virtual Visitwebinar-covid-19-telemedicine

As your virtual visit kicks off, consider who is within listening distance of your phone or video chat conversation. The patient will determine who is in their home environment, but physicians are responsible for confidentiality on their end. Inform patients early of other listeners or participants in the visit, especially if they’re off camera.

Before the meat of the visit begins, physicians should also give the patient instructions on what to do if technology malfunctions.

One of crucial patient experience factors for telemedicine is staying engaged. Physicians should try to maintain eye contact and acknowledge they are listening in more deliberate ways than in-person visits. Sometimes, that means mentioning to the patient that you’re taking notes or describing what you’re looking at on your computer screen.

Once you’ve talked through the patient’s care, be sure to explain next steps before signing off. This could include prescription pickup, billing, scheduling a follow-up or other processes that might be different from their regular in-office visits. The end of your video session is also a good time to ask for the patient’s opinion on virtual visits and prime them to complete a survey or leave a review.

After the Telemedicine Appointment

In a Massachusetts General Hospital study, 79% of patients said it was easier to schedule an appointment for a virtual follow-up than for a clinic visit, and 66% said they had strong personal connections to their telemedicine provider. Patients perceived significant added convenience, saved travel time, and expressed willingness to pay co-payments for telemedicine visits.

Right after the appointment is the best time to capture that patient experience and generate quality reviews for your providers. Consider automating your survey requests to send right after virtual visits, and use text messages to boost click-through rates. As you collect this new feedback data, put it to use by converting surveys and reviews into ratings for publication on your website and listings.

Remember in all your communications pre- and post-visit that care quality is the top consumer concern about telemedicine, followed by data security and privacy. On the other hand, convenience, time savings, access to care and financial savings are the most frequently cited reasons for patients’ preference for telemedicine. Highlighting those benefits, and easing concerns about care quality and technological issues, are key to improving patient experience for virtual visits.

Learn more about telemedicine’s impact on healthcare marketing and patient experience in our recent webinar: COVID-19, Telemedicine and Your Online Presence.


[Infographic] How the Rise of Telemedicine Will Impact Patient Experience

telemedicine-patient-experience-infographic
Click to view full infographic.

The adoption of telemedicine has shifted into hyper-drive over the past few months, with virtual healthcare interactions on pace to top 1 billion by year’s end. Yet, in 2019, only 17% of consumers were aware that their health system or insurance provider offered telemedicine as an alternative to in-person care.

To build online visibility for these services and improve the quality of virtual care, providers need to understand the impact of telemedicine on patient experience.

In our latest infographic, we’re sharing data on telemedicine surveys and reviews that can shape your marketing and patient experience strategies as the technology becomes ubiquitous.

The surge in telehealth popularity is clear. Teladoc Health says its video appointments surged 50% in a single week in March, and Kaiser Permanente similarly used telemedicine to reduce in-person visits to specialty physicians by 40% in one week.

Consumer comfortability with telemedicine is high as well, and they frequently seek it out as a care option. Four out of five consumers are more likely to select a medical provider who offers telemedicine services over one who does not.

Care quality is the top consumer concern about telemedicine, followed by data security and privacy, but studies show promise in the quality of virtual visits. Massachusetts General Hospital research showed that, when comparing virtual video visits and office visits, most patients and clinicians reported no difference in the overall quality of the visit. Not to mention, nearly 95% of reviews in the study indicated positive emotions.

So, how will the rise of telemedicine impact patient experience at your organization?

View Infographic

 

For more about telemedicine’s impact on reputation management and patient experience, you can visit our COVID-19 Resources Page and browse these resources:


The Impact of Telemedicine on Patient Experience

telemedicine-patient-experienceAs telemedicine takes center stage in the wake of COVID-19, healthcare organizations need to understand and adjust to its impact on patient experience.

New questions about the technology’s effects on patient satisfaction are arising as both patients and providers adjust to a new normal, including one key inquiry:

How will the rise of telehealth visits impact patient experience for healthcare consumers and caregivers?

In short, on-demand, virtual care is a powerful tool for those in charge of improving patient satisfaction. Consumers across specialties are rating telemedicine as equal to or better than in-person consultations.

In this article, you will learn which top factors are influencing the perception of telemedicine, the main patient care experience benefits derived from virtual services, and the impact of telemedicine on care quality.

Convenience and Time Savings from Telemedicine

Convenience, time savings, access to care and financial savings are the most frequently cited reasons for patients’ preference for telemedicine. Highlighting those benefits, and easing concerns about facetime and technological issues, are key to improving patient experience for virtual visits.

Telemedicine allows patients to bypass travel and waiting room experiences — major sources of negative feedback – giving their interactions with providers a higher baseline level of satisfaction. That benefit of convenience is reflected in several studies of telehealth.

2019 study of the telemedicine impact on patient experience found improvements in all the domains recommended by the National Quality Forum: access (time spent in evaluation), experience (patient satisfaction) and effectiveness (case cancellation rate). The telemedicine group spent less time in pre-admission testing (PAT) by an average of 24 minutes and had no cancellations, while several of the in-person visits were cancelled.

Telemedicine shines when it comes to follow-up consultations. In a study by Massachusetts General Hospital, clinicians said telehealth was instrumental in offering convenient and timely follow-up visits. Seventy percent said the technology helped them see patients in a timely manner and 50% said telehealth was efficient.

Due to convenience and time savings, the consumer appreciation for virtual visits is also reflected in a telemedicine study of radiation oncology patients. Most patients preferred virtual visits for future consultations, about one-third desired a mix of telemedicine and in-person visits, and only one patient preferred in-person visits only.

Access to Virtual Care and Financial Savings

Payers and providers are starting to realize how much telemedicine can help control costs, as well.

The lack of access to care negatively affects patient engagement and follow-through, according to research from telehealth provider Teladoc. In many cases, prompt and accessible health services help avoid the need for more complex and expensive treatment.

Patients seeking treatment via telemedicine encounter fewer barriers to prompt care delivery, which in turn leads to better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

In the Massachusetts General Hospital study, 79% of patients said it was easier to schedule an appointment for a virtual follow-up visit than for a clinic visit, and 66% said they had strong personal connections to their telemedicine provider. Patients perceived significant added convenience, saved travel time, and expressed willingness to pay co-payments for this visit option.

Particularly in rural areas, the time saved commuting to care centers is highly valuable. According to a Harvard Medical School study, patients spend an average of $43 in lost time for a typical doctor’s appointment – a cost they will appreciate being alleviated by virtual services.

How Telemedicine Impacts Quality of Care

According to Texas State University research, the factors listed most often connecting telehealth to patient satisfaction were improved outcomes (20%), preferred modality (10%), ease of use (9%), low cost (8%), improved communication (8%), and decreased travel time (7%).

And those factors are so far receiving high marks: 95% of patients report being satisfied with their telehealth experience, according to eVisit. A 2019 study concerning PAT echoes that statistic, finding that using telemedicine for PAT had benefits in terms of access, patient experience and effectiveness for both patients and providers.

webinar-covid-19-telemedicineWhen comparing virtual visits and office visits, MGH found that many patients and clinicians reported no difference in “the overall quality of the visit.” It additionally found that:

  • 62% said the quality of care via telehealth was the same as an in-person visit
  • 21% said the quality of care via telehealth was better than an in-person visit
  •  68% rated their visit a nine or a 10 on a 10-point satisfaction scale

Note that when a patient rated lower than a nine, according to the study, it was usually due to a technical difficulty that MGH said was resolved before the visit was completed.

These are just small samplings of the many types of care primed to take advantage of telemedicine services, like pregnancy, rehabilitation and chronic conditions. With so many care factors benefiting from the technology, your healthcare organization can confidently prepare to use virtual services to boost patient experience for the long term.

For more on how to market telemedicine, browse these related posts:


Quick Guide on How to Market Telemedicine on Your Website

Ihow-to-market-telemedicine n a recent survey, Binary Fountain discovered that half of all marketing departments are planning to focus on telemedicine initiatives once they emerge from COVID-19. Competition to promote telemedicine is only likely to increase in the coming months and years. Learning how to market telemedicine now could give you an advantage in this rapidly changing field.

This guide will teach you how to utilize your website to promote your telemedicine offerings. We’ll show you how to optimize your pages and the tools you can use to increase your rankings in search engine results (SERPS).

1. Create Effective Messaging to Market Telemedicine

The first tip in our how to market telemedicine guide is to start by determining who your telemedicine customers are. Then adapt the messaging on your page to meet their concerns. For example, if you typically treat chronically ill patients, write messaging that highlights how your service allows them to avoid inconvenient travel, saves them the cost of a travel attendant, and other travel expenses, and avoids unnecessary readmission. Tech-savvy patients will respond well to the on-demand nature of telemedicine. Rural patients will appreciate not having to drive for long distances to receive care.

Two common concerns about Telemedicine are that it’s more prone to misdiagnosis and doesn’t offer as good quality of care. While these concerns appear to be dropping with time, it would be wise to address them. Explain how your online care offers the same accuracy and quality of care as in-person visits.

2. Have a Telemedicine Webpage That Features an FAQ

Telemedicine is just now breaking into the mainstream, so many of your patients and future patients will have questions. A crucial part of your telemedicine promotion will need to be answering those questions to put patients at ease. While you could make telemedicine additions to an existing general FAQ, it would be wise to feature common questions and answers on your telemedicine’s main webpage.

how-to-market-telemedicineSome universal questions you may want to answer are:

  • Are you seeing new patients or just existing patients via telemedicine?
  • What specific health issues can you help with?
  • What is the cost of this service?
  • What insurance do you accept?
  • What is the process?
  • Are patients immediately connected with a provider?
  • Do patients fill out a form and then hear back?
  • What days and hours are you available?

The UNC Medical Center’s Virtual Urgent Care page is an excellent example of a FAQ page. It answers many common consumer questions before the patient even has to ask.

3. Homepage Banners, Pop-Ups, and Other CTAs

You’ve honed your messaging and created an FAQ page that answers consumer questions regarding your telemedicine offering. Now you need to drive internal web traffic to your telemedicine web pages.

A homepage banner is a natural place to start. Generally, a homepage banner is a great way to drive patients to a new service.

The Billings Clinic’s homepage banner accomplishes this with bright colors and large, easy-to-read text. It’s an effective way to direct traffic in the “lobby” of your website.

market-telemedicine-website-pop-up
Advanced ENT’s homepage pop-up

Homepage pop-ups are another option you could consider. Advanced ENT has instituted a pop-up that displays automatically over the homepage banner when users open their homepage. While pop-ups generally aren’t thought of as something web users enjoy, pop-ups that offer users something of value and aren’t challenging to close do get positive results.

You may want to consider using pop-ups on other high traffic pages as well, along with telemedicine call to action (CTA) buttons and text.

Not all of your website visitors begin their visit on your homepage. Current patients might skip your homepage and go directly to a page they’ve previously visited.

In response, you should also draw attention to telemedicine on your topmost visited webpages to ensure all patients are aware of your telemedicine services. If you have an appointment scheduling page, we highly encourage you to advertise telemedicine on this page. Sites with chatbots should also consider using this tool to inform patients about telemedicine.

4. Help Patients Decide If Telemedicine Is Right for Them on Your Appointment Scheduling Page

how-to-market-telemedicineAppointment scheduling is one of the most crucial points in the customer journey for telemedicine promotion. It’s imperative that patients consider telemedicine while setting up an appointment.

Cone Health’s appointment scheduling page is a powerful example of how a website can guide patients to the ideal appointment type for their condition and budget. While your organization may not offer the same number of service offerings, your patients will appreciate your guidance on the appointment type that is best suited for their needs.

Readers should also take note of the way COVID-19 instructions are built into this webpage. If you are seeking to use telemedicine as a tool to shield your providers, be sure to direct your online traffic to book online care when they go to schedule appointments.

5. Make Sure Telemedicine Marketing is Part of Your SEO Strategy

Now that you’ve taken some steps to integrate telemedicine onto the face of your website, you’re ready for the last step in this how-to market telemedicine guide. The final goal is to ensure that the SEO on the backend of your site is set up with telemedicine promotion in mind.

Updating your meta information is a great place to start. Be sure to use keywords and phrases for your telemedicine service in the meta descriptions of all applicable webpages. When appropriate, you may even use a telemedicine call to action phrase. This could entice higher click-through rates for viewers who find your webpages through search engines, and indirectly lead to higher search rankings. These keywords should also be used in the meta title of your telemedicine specific webpages.

Once this is done, ensure that all of your telemedicine webpages have been indexed. If your site has duplicate versions of the same content, such as a .pdf that has the same content as a webpage, use canonical tags on both assets to instruct Google as to which asset to display in search.

Structuring your FAQ data to be displayed in Google is another great SEO best practice that may allow your questions and answers to appear in zero click searches. Adding the correct data structuring will allow your questions and answers to appear in the Q&A formatted snippets carousel. This guide from Google explains the concept further. You may need to consult your web team to institute this. However, this guide explains how to use structure data if you have a basic understanding of HTML and JSON syntax. Structuring your FAQ data for Google Search could help you increase your SERPS, which makes it an optimization that could pay off quickly.

For more on how to market telemedicine, browse these related posts:

[Blog] The Numbers Behind Telemedicine: What Healthcare Marketers Should Know
[Webinar] COVID-19, Telemedicine and Your Online Presence
[Blog] Telemedicine Marketing: How to Manage Listings for Virtual Care


The Numbers Behind Telemedicine: What Healthcare Marketers Should Know

telemedicine-numbers-marketingTelemedicine has moved from a nice-to-have to a necessity as COVID-19 pushes health systems to care for patients virtually. Though the current reliance on virtual care is temporary, the importance of telemedicine is here to stay.

Given this new landscape of care delivery, how can you position your brand, facilities and providers as you offer more virtual care?

To strategize your messaging and branding strategy around virtual care, healthcare marketers need to assess the needs, wants and priorities of patients navigating a new care experience. You can start by highlighting telemedicine services as part of your obligation to provide quality care at the right time – and in the right place.

Branding and messaging for telemedicine might vary for each patient demographic, specialty offered and geographic region, but every strategy needs a strong foundation on which to build.

Here are statistics and guidelines that can help frame your telemedicine marketing efforts.

Understanding the Telemedicine Market

To get the most value from your telemedicine marketing, you first need to understand the audience you’re planning to reach.

Up to 77% of consumers would consider seeing a provider virtually, and 19% already have, according to an Advisory Board survey.

That willingness spans across most medical services, with most respondents saying they would consider a virtual visit in each of the 21 primary and specialty care scenarios tested. It also spans age groups, with the AP-NORC Center’s 2018 Long-Term Care Poll finding that adults aged 40 or more years were just as likely as those aged 18 to 39 to say they would give telemedicine a try.

Clearly, consumers are comfortable with the idea of virtual visits, especially in the wake of COVID-19, giving healthcare marketers a captive audience to attract. But what are these consumers looking for?

To understand the needs, wants and priorities of these patients, here are some questions to consider:

  • Who are common urgent-care or walk-in patients that would benefit?
  • Will a patient or caregiver make the decision to use the service?
  • Which factors motivate people to choose my providers?
  • How often do patients cancel in-person appointments and for what reasons?
  • When, where and how are consumers scheduling appointments with me?
  • How much does distance/travel influence a region’s healthcare decisions?

Categorizing Your Telemedicine Services

In addition to answering those questions to frame your marketing strategy, be sure to communicate the breadth of healthcare service categories available through telemedicine. They may not all be obvious to patients.

A full picture of those telemedicine categories’ popularity has not yet emerged, but some trends are clear.

The proportion of virtual visits focused on mental health has decreased in recent years, as providers begin adding other care categories to the telehealth roster. Mental health fell from the No. 1 diagnostic category for telehealth in 2016 to No. 5 in 2017 at 7% of total claims; while injury made up 13% of telemedicine diagnoses in 2017, according to nonprofit healthcare organization FAIR Health.

Meanwhile, the shift to value-based care and healthcare consumerism is heightening the importance of chronic care management, where telemedicine is a logical option.

“Direct-to-consumer virtual specialty and chronic care are largely untapped frontiers,” says Advisory Board’s Emily Zuehlke. “As consumers increasingly shop for convenient, affordable healthcare – and as payers’ interest in low-cost access continues to grow – consumers are likely to reward those who offer virtual visits for specialty and chronic care.”

Addressing Patient Concerns

To convert interested prospects into virtual patients, healthcare organizations need to understand and respond to consumers’ top concerns. Only 9% of respondents in the AP-NORC Center survey said they had no concerns about virtual visits, leaving plenty of room for marketers to ease their worries.

It all starts with quality. About half of consumers are concerned about receiving low-quality care from a telemedicine appointment, according surveys from AP-NORC Center and Advisory Board.

Other top consumer concerns surrounding virtual visits include data security, privacy and needing an in-person clinic anyway. Cost is always among the top issues for consumers, so make sure your review management team and providers have up-do-date information for payment FAQs and are ready to answer.

As a relatively new healthcare experience to many, patient reviews and ratings are highly valuable to those considering telemedicine services for the first time. They’re valuable to health systems too. In a 2017 review of Kaiser Permanente’s virtual patient interactions, 93% of patients were satisfied with their experience.

With strong benefits to patient experience, high consumer demand and a disease outbreak that has caused so many patients to stay home, telemedicine is now in the industry spotlight. Using targeted, smart, strategic marketing to carry your patients and providers into the world of virtual care will maximize its value for your organization.

For more content on managing your brand during COVID-19, you can visit our COVID-19 Resources Page and browse these resources:


[Webinar Recap] COVID-19, Telemedicine and Your Online Presence

webinar-covid-19-telemedicineCOVID-19 has shifted everyone’s priorities, especially those of healthcare marketers. Team members’ roles have changed, top initiatives have shifted, and spending has been cut.

In this webinar, Kate Slonaker, VP of Growth Initiatives at Binary Fountain, sat down with Niklas Kubasek, SVP of Partnerships at CareDash, to analyze the priority shifts Healthcare Marketers have made in the face of the pandemic. Next, we took a deep dive into telemedicine and explored the beneficial impact it can have on your online listings. We also discussed tips on optimizing your brand and provider listings.

You can find a link to the on-demand webinar here and at the bottom of this page. Here are some of the key takeaways:

How COVID-19 Has Shifted Priorities for Healthcare Marketers

Binary Fountain surveyed over 300 healthcare marketers to determine how this health crisis has changed their daily routine and marketing priorities. Below we highlight a few of the key findings:

  1. Internal communication could have significant implications for future employer brand. 77% of respondents reported that team members have been laid off, were at risk of being laid off, or had been reallocated. Less than a quarter (23%) reported no changes had occurred. During this uncertain time, internal communications could be critical to maintaining your future employer brand.
  2. Spending cuts have enhanced the value of transparency in communications with staff, contractors, and vendors. Media spending and paid advertising, such as ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, saw the biggest cuts in our survey. 38% of our respondents reporting reduced spending. Content marketing saw reported spending cuts of only 25%. This seems to indicate that healthcare organizations are still spending on efforts to keep patients informed.
  3. Online directory listings and crisis communications are the two most important COVID-19 initiatives. Before the pandemic, content marketing (46% before, now down to 32%) and email marketing (40% before, now down to 33%) were the top two marketing initiatives on average. The top two initiatives appear to have shifted to crisis communication (currently at 48%, was 33%) and updating online directories (now 34%, was 31%). Online directories include sites such as Google My Business, Vitals, Yelp, and CareDash.
  4. Marketers are mainly communicating with patients individually via calls, emails, and texts. The top medium of marketer-to-patient communication in our survey was phone calls (62.8%). It was followed by email marketing (62.5%) and text messaging (49.1%). But the large share of COVID-19 related online comments surrounding healthcare brands appears on Twitter. Only 18.4% of our respondents reported using Twitter to communicate with patients. Marketers not communicating via Twitter feeds and Instagram may be missing opportunities to provide patients and consumers with valuable information.
  5. The coronavirus pandemic has spurred providers across specialties to accelerate the adoption and promotion of telemedicine. When we asked which projects and initiatives marketing teams are planning post-COVID-19, telemedicine initiatives (50%) were the top response. This was followed by physician directories and online appointments (43%). We expect interest in telemedicine will continue long after the pandemic. This is because providers and patients are getting the opportunity to utilize the technology. The increased focus on listings management and online appointments highlights the importance of removing friction from the healthcare selection process.

Offering Telemedicine Has Boosted Online Listings Engagement During COVID-19

According to Niklas, CareDash saw a 32% increase in providers and facilities that answered yes to providing telehealth services on their CareDash profiles. In response, CareDash users were 75% more likely to book an online therapy appointment. The company also saw a 9% increase in online urgent care clicks.

The Telemedicine Boost for Online Listings Will Likely Continue After the Pandemic

Telemedicine will boost your online listings engagement if patients continue to search for it. This is likely, as both sides are finally utilizing it. Even before the pandemic, telemedicine was growing in popularity among physicians and patients.

Physician adoption doubled from 14% in 2016 to 28% in 2019 in one AMA study, signaling this pre-pandemic growth. This growth exploded with the coronavirus pandemic, with Teladoc reporting 15,000+ requests per day in mid-March. We know that telemedicine is growing in importance here at Binary Fountain. 77% of our healthcare clients offer the service. The American Telehealth Association predicts that over 50% of all healthcare services will be consumed virtually by 2030.

On the patient side, COVID-19 has spurred experimentation and acceptance of telemedicine. An April 2020 YouGov study showed that the number of people that have used telemedicine has risen 3% since November 2019, a mere five-month period. During the same time period, comfort with and trust in telemedicine also rose by 10% in both categories. At the same time, the top two concerns with telemedicine, misdiagnosis, and quality of care, both dropped 13% and 11%, respectively.

How to Inform Your Patients That You Offer Telemedicine on Your Online Listings

Below are a few best practices for managing online listings for telemedicine.

  1. Activate any telemedicine options that exist in each of your business or provider listings’ sites. This will activate any visual indicators that you offer telemedicine. In addition, it may also ensure your profile is visible to consumers searching for telemedicine.
  2. Mention telemedicine early in your profiles. This is a helpful indicator for consumers and may help the word telemedicine show up in search previews.
  3. Use keywords to rank in searches for telemedicine. You will want to use keywords such as “telemedicine” and “virtual care” in the copy of your listings. Don’t forget to use commonly searched names for your specialties as well.
  4. Use the unique tools built into each listing site. Google My Business now offers an online care options tool that displays in Search and on Maps. Some practices have taken advantage of Yelp’s customizable COVID-19 Update Banners to direct their patients towards their online care options. Several websites such as Healthgrades have filters that allow patients to search exclusively for telemedicine providers. CareDash just launched an API update to support telemedicine availability and appointment scheduling tools.

The Most Effective Online Profiles for Highlighting Your Telemedicine Care

Organizations and facilities should start by claiming and optimizing their business and provider listings on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and CareDash. You should certainly use CareDash’s new API that supports features for availability and scheduling. The site also has a bulk upload tool to update and manage provider profiles.

Individual provider profiles on CareDash can be updated directly from their account dashboard as well. In addition, we also recommend that organizations and facilities ensure individual providers have profiles on Healthgrades, WebMD, Vitals, and RateMDs.

Telemedicine Can Improve Your Online Reputation

Because of its online nature, telemedicine is a great way to encourage new reviews and recommendations. It gives you increased access to contact information you can leverage to drive reviews and testimonials. Email addresses are an opportunity to send surveys and review requests. Cell phone numbers allow you to communicate with your patients via texting tools to send out surveys and review requests.

Speakers:

  • Niklas Kubasek, SVP of Partnerships, CareDash
  • Kate Slonaker, VP of Growth Initiatives, Binary Fountain

To learn more about how COVID-19 has affected healthcare marketers, telemedicine and your online presence, check out the free, 30-minute webinar – now available on-demand.

Ready to watch the webinar? Click here.

 

For more on telemedicine and managing your online presence during and post COVID-19, you can visit our COVID-19 Resources Page.

We also suggest the following resources:


Telemedicine Marketing: How to Manage Listings for Virtual Care

telemedicine-marketingWhether your organization sees virtual care as a COVID-19 stopgap measure or a new permanent service, it’s important to ensure your telemedicine marketing is working effectively.

Your online listings are the primary way potential patients will find you and your services in search engines. It’s important to ensure they are optimized for telemedicine. Below are six suggestions to increase your odds of attracting these patients.

1. Ensure All Top Telemedicine Listings Are Claimed

Start your telemedicine listings management strategy by taking stock of your organization’s existing listings and removing inaccurate business listings. Having accurate business listings will help patients find you and your services.

Make sure your practice’s Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook Business Pages are claimed to get the most out of your telemedicine marketing. These listing sites all have unique tools to promote your telemedicine offerings.

We also suggest that all of your providers have listings on Healthgrades, WebMD, CareDash, Vitals, and RateMDs. These sites allow providers to set themselves apart as telemedicine providers.

2. Add Telemedicine to Your Provider Profiles

To optimize Google Search results, you can take advantage of preview text that displays below your webpage and domain name. Many search engines use the first few lines of a provider’s bio to generate this preview for profile page results. Many internal website search tools do this as well.

If telemedicine is your primary means of seeing patients during COVID-19, it would pay to use the word early in your bios. This helps increase the chances of telemedicine appearing in your providers’ search previews.

telemedicine-marketing

Source: Healthgrades

While you’re reading over your bios, you can ensure you’re using other best practices. These include: speaking in a conversational tone, writing in the 2nd person (using “you” and “your” to speak to your patients instead of “he/she” and “we” to speak about the provider or organization), and avoiding medical jargon and technical terms.

3. Use Telemedicine Keywords to Rank in Search Engines

Keywords are words and phrases within the copy of your listing that make it possible for people to find you using search engines. To signal your service availability, “telemedicine” and “virtual care” can be among your primary keywords, and commonly searched names for your specialties should serve as additional keywords.

While advanced keyword tools exist for purchase, there are free resources you can also use to discover keywords quickly. WordStream offers a free keyword tool that displays search volumes, CPC (cost per click, for paid search engine promotion), and competition ratings for keywords. It will also give you alternative keyword suggestions to consider. Wordtracker Scout is a free Chrome extension you can use to see which keywords other websites are using. Google offers AdWords account holders a Keyword planner that is useful for optimizing your keywords specifically for Google ads. Those without accounts can also use Google Trends to see basic reports on keyword popularity.

Be careful not to go overboard with keywords. A good keyword strategy seeks to attract the most relevant patients, but not the most viewers overall. Casting too wide a net will hurt your search rankings long term. Initial visitors won’t find your listing relevant and will quickly leave to find more relevant content. These quick visits will raise your bounce rate and hurt your quality score in search engines. This may trigger search engines such as Google to give you a lower ranking.

4. Use the Unique Tools Each Listing Offers to Your Advantage

Each third-party listing website presents slightly different opportunities for your telemedicine marketing efforts. Here are a few site-specific features you’ll want to use to your advantage:

  • Google My Business: A recent new feature allows you to enter a virtual care offering into your organization’s profile. This will trigger a “get online care” link to appear within your listing on Search and Maps. Clicking the link will guide clients to your virtual care webpage.
  • Yelp: The COVID-19 Update banners that appear on listings are customizable and present an opportunity to promote telemedicine appointments. Bay Area Adult ADHD makes great use of this tool. The banner is made even more effective by the telemedicine scheduling tool.
  • Healthgrades: The site developed a Coronavirus chatbot in order to educate the public on COVID-19. It’s also designed to help keep infected patients out of waiting rooms. The chatbot helps users identify if they may have symptoms of the virus. It then connects them with local physicians offering online appointments. Make sure your providers show up among the list of providers offering telemedicine.
  • CareDash: Providers can enable the “online care available” attribute on their CareDash provider profile pages. You can also specify which states you are able to provide virtual care in. See below for an example.

caredash-virtual-care-provider

Source: CareDash

Additionally, most provider listing websites now display badges on the search previews of physicians that offer telemedicine. Most allow users to filter out providers that don’t offer the service. Make sure your providers are standing out by activating these settings.

5. Write Compelling Calls to Action

Your customers aren’t likely to take action if you haven’t asked them to do so. CTAs are any messages that tell a reader what action you want them to take. “Sign Up Now” and “Click Here” are CTAs you’ve probably seen many times before. CTAs aren’t meant to convince your readers to book an appointment on their own – that’s the listing copy’s job. Instead, they’re meant to spur interested readers to take the next step towards becoming patients. In terms of your telemedicine marketing, this will most likely mean clicking a link to your website or making an appointment with a scheduling tool.

CTAs are a small and simple thing, but well-written CTAs can have big impacts on your listings. Your calls to action don’t necessarily have to be two words long and in capital letters. They do need to be clear, direct, and concise. “Call to schedule an appointment” or “Book telemedicine sessions here” are examples of CTAs that guide your clients in the right direction.

6. Encourage Reviews and Recommendations

Once you’ve claimed and optimized your online listings, it’s time to start collecting telemedicine-specific patient reviews and recommendations. Listings with a high volume of reviews tend to rank higher in search engines. They see improved click-through rates on CTAs and assist patients in their decision-making process. But be mindful of listings websites, such as Google My Business and Yelp, that have strict policies against review solicitation. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules of each platform.

In order to generate new reviews, we suggest following up with patients via email or text message. The online nature of telemedicine gives you increased access to contact information you can leverage. Use it to drive testimonials for increased online reach. Your satisfied patients can help new clients find you.

Once you start receiving reviews, it’s essential that you follow best practices for responding to patient reviews. Recently, Google turned off review responses due to the influx of reviews regarding COVID-19. Now that review responses have returned to Google My Business, you can respond to patients and thank them for taking the time to provide feedback.


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