Podcast #12

The Future of Telehealth: a Hybrid Approach

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people receive care, and an unprecedented number of providers and patients have tried telehealth. As we adjust to post-pandemic life, many are questioning telehealth’s staying power. Will consumers continue to use virtual care?

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone

Lauren Leone: “44% of people would prefer to receive care both in-person and via telehealth, so nearly half of the people out there want the option. I think that’s what post-COVID’s going to be all about, hybrid everywhere.”

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinals experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

AlexMembrilloWhat’s up everybody? Excited, excited to have you guys listening to Ignite, we’ve got our SVP of Healthcare Marketing, Lauren Leone on the line with us. Today, we are talking telehealth. We’re talking telehealth marketing. We’re talking about the biggest objections that patients have. We’re going to talk about solutions and what practices need to do to amp up their visibility on their telehealth offering. Welcome to Ignite, Lauren.

Lauren LeoneThanks, Alex.

Alex: What are the biggest objections people have to telehealth? Why do people have concerns about telehealth, why are more people not adopting it?

Lauren: I think it’s becoming more widely adopted, but you’ve just got this long-standing tradition of seeing a provider in person and the question is, how do I get that level of care virtually? They can’t see me, they can’t touch me. They can’t run tests on me. I don’t understand. I can’t comprehend how I can still get the same quality of care from a distance, through a computer.

Then you’ve got certain pockets of demographics that are not familiar or comfortable with the technology. Is it safe? Is it private? Is someone watching? I would say those are probably the two biggest challenges. Then on the flip side, you’ve got groups that are running to it. They’re excited that they don’t have to get in their car, and drive, and visit a provider in person, so it’s a little bit of both.

Alex: DocASAP put out a poll 2021, they found 44% of people would prefer to receive care both in-person and via telehealth, so nearly half of the people out there want the option. I think that’s what post-COVID’s going to be all about, hybrid everywhere. Hybrid work environment, hybrid school, hybrid care is going to be so important. 40% of people would switch providers based on availability for both telehealth and in-person care. You got to have every option. What are the top three best practices to increase telehealth adoption? What would you say the first one is? If I’m running a practice, a lot more people utilizing our telehealth services, Lauren, what would be the first thing on your mind?

Lauren: You’ve just got to have a really strong communication strategy around how virtual and in-person can work together. You think about an initial consult, right? If you’re going to have a quick 15-minute chat with someone about getting LASIK surgery, is it the right fit for them, or is your practice the right fit for your upcoming shoulder surgery?

Those conversations can be had virtually. I don’t need to drive 45 minutes, sit in a waiting room to meet you, I can get a feel for your bedside manner and what your practice is all about, but help them understand that there is still going to be a portion of care that is going to be in-person. It’s not going to impact your overall experience, you’re still going to get great outcomes. A communication strategy about how they work together, I think is what patients are still needing to wrap their head around.

Alex: Should there be a whole portion of the website that is dedicated to telehealth to help with that or should it just be like a message pop-up when you land on the site? What are some tactical things these practices need to do?

Lauren: If telehealth is an entry point into the organization, then it absolutely should be one of the main call-to-actions on your site. If I, as a new patient, can self-refer into your practice and book a telehealth appointment, I want to know that that’s possible. The millennials want to be able to do that, certain groups want to be able to do that. Make sure that your call-to-action reflects all of the various options that you offer. If telehealth is more so just part of the overall patient experience, maybe it’s for the follow-ups, you can do telehealth appointments, at least make sure that you have “How it Works” section, what are the different ways that I can engage with you?

Alex: Okay. What is this I hear about a virtual waiting room? You ever heard of this?

Lauren: Well, yes. I mean, if you are providing telehealth services, make sure that it is very simple for the patient. I don’t know if you’ve had one, Alex, but I had quite a few virtual appointments last year when I was pregnant, and that confusion around, “Okay, my appointment starts in five minutes. Where do I go? How do I get into the room to see the provider? What technologies are we using? What device do I need to use?” Making that highly accessible on the site so that you understand, “Okay, I go into this waiting room, I can click one click to the link, I put in my credentials,” and then just like I would be in your office, I’m waiting for my provider to initiate the appointment.

Alex: Yes. It’s a whole education thing. I do wonder if part of the adoption will just come in time as more of us start utilizing it slowly. Right now, I need to find a new PCP, and I guess I haven’t pulled the trigger because I’m like, “I want to do it virtually, but how are they going to do the blood test and all that stuff. They probably can send someone to the house,” and I bet that something that one of the PCP groups around here would educate me on, but it’s just going to take time for us all to learn how to use it.

Lauren: I think that’s the hybrid model. There are some things that simply cannot or should not be done at home. Maybe you’ll have your appointment, and get all of the upfront work done, and then you’ll come in for a much shorter, quicker, more convenient appointment just to do some of the physical checkup work, but having a conversation with you about your behaviors, your exercise, your family history, that can be done virtually.

Alex: Maybe some of those questions should be put on this telehealth hub on the site like, “How do I know my doctor understands my issue if he or she can’t physically examine me?” “How do I access a platform?” “Do I have the right technology?” All that should be answered on this hub, this content hub you’re talking about, right?

Lauren: Yes. You need to educate. You need to consider what barriers are my patients thinking of? What questions are coming to mind? Why would they hesitate? Then, have a very simple approach to addressing those. Maybe each has a blog post, or maybe you have a robust FAQ section. As these questions get asked in office, jot them down, and put them on your website. It’s really simple. You don’t need to go digging for what patients want to understand. You’re listening to it every day. You just need to recall those and make note of them.

Alex: That’s a good point. That helps inform tons of content outside of FAQ and on-site, like blog articles, press releases. Oh, my gosh, you can go nuts with it. You could go crazy. You could do videos, your provider videos. You could do events centered around it. “Hey, we’re getting together with the community to talk about these questions.” I love it. Content, the key to everything. How else? What is another best practice that practices can use to increase telehealth adoption?

Lauren: Outside of content, I think in your advertising channels, making sure that this hybrid approach is mentioned, whether that’s– again, it all still comes back to content, but whether it’s the headline of an ad, or the call to action on your social videos. Once you’ve created this content, you need people to see it. Getting the message out there. I recommend making it part of your advertising strategy. You mentioned 40% of people would switch if there was a hybrid model, so it’s not the perfect answer for everyone. Come up with a messaging strategy or a testing strategy that tests different messages, so that the right people get the right message that makes the most sense for them.

Alex: Do I leave reviews for the telehealth offering in a different place than Google My Business? I should ask my patients, “Mention the telehealth offering when you leave the review so that I can put the review on my content hub about tele–” Is that what they’re doing, or is it separate?

Lauren: Telehealth is tough. Google has adopted the ability to indicate that you offer a telehealth functionality, but a lot of it is still tied to maybe a location listing. I don’t know of any instance in which it’s 100% virtual, so you’re still going to have a physical location. You’re still going to be a provider that has a listing for yourself. Request it the same way you always would, but to your point, ask them, when you send that text asking for feedback, instead of saying, “How was your recent visit at our Marietta office?”, say, “How was your recent telehealth visit? Tell us more about it.”

Alex: That’s right and, put the keyword in your review, please.

Lauren: You can’t necessarily go that far, maybe. You don’t want to say anything that gives away private information about the type of appointment. I know everyone out there knows that. If the patients value the telehealth offering, they will talk about it in their review. I think it’s going to happen naturally just by getting out there and asking them.

Alex: Ask enough people. You’re right, I’m the only thing that’s not HIPAA-compliant on this call, apparently. Very important. I’ll tell you what you can do is put certain keywords into your response to the review on Google that don’t imply condition. I wonder if you could say, “I’m glad you enjoyed your telehealth visit.” Then, you’ll rank better for telehealth orthopedic surgeon near me. I wonder if that’s HIPAA-compliant. I bet it is. I bet you could mention telehealth, that there was a telehealth visit.

Lauren: I would think if the patient says, “I had a great virtual visit. I really value the telehealth product.” Then, you can acknowledge it.

Alex: All right, guys, don’t take my word for it. Listen to Lauren. What other things? Anything else, any other benefits or value that could be communicated on a website that would help people visualize how the process is going to run?

Lauren: We have a lot of clients who are now putting out video content. Maybe it is a recording of the screen showing how you get into the platform, or maybe it is a mock appointment. If you were my provider– it’s a quick 30-second video on the patient and they just get an idea of what it feels like to be in that appointment. Use video content, find ways that you can showcase, or give them a peek into what the actual experience would be.

Alex: The more you can visualize a mock treatment plan, something like that could be really interesting. You know what would be the biggest kicker to make me do telehealth? Is I go to book an appointment or send a request form and say, “Instead of calling, instead of waiting for us to get back to you via email, these are the appointment times that you can have, and you can be seen in 30 minutes virtually, or you can wait for your appointment in three days, and you know you’re going to be in our waiting room for two hours.” That’ll get some adoption, that’ll get some adoption happening.

Lauren: You don’t want to discourage the care that happens in-person, but I think calling out the benefits like no drive times, fit it into your busy work schedule, over your lunch break, without having to sit in a waiting room, or for the people that are still really timid about COVID, maybe they aren’t vaccinated, no exposure because you’re not leaving your house if that’s what you’re comfortable doing. I would say always stick with calling out the benefits without calling out any downsides of another solution because there’s a different approach for everybody.

Alex: You want to make everybody feel comfortable. Man, if I was starting a practice today though, I would really push the virtual stuff. That’s the wave of the future. You can fit so many more patients into a day. I can get so much more care to so many more people, so antiquated for everybody to be coming in for post-op visits, when those are quick and easy, you can even do physicals on– I would be really pushing it but yes, baby steps so that everybody feels comfortable.

Lauren: The cool thing I think is expanding the footprint of your practice. You’re no longer limited to who will drive to see me. It’s who, within my entire state in the insurance networks that I take or accept, could I give care to that I couldn’t previously give care to. I think that is the biggest opportunity.

Alex: Final question. What percentage of total visits for our clients would you say generally happen virtually?

Lauren: That’s a good question. I think it’s changing, Alex. It’s probably 50/50.

Alex: 50/50, so 50% of all appointments that our clients are getting. Tell us more. Is that specialty or is that like low acuity?

Lauren: Low acuity. Whether it’s the first dental consult. I see it a lot in the behavioral health space because that is truly talk therapy. There isn’t a physical component. I can issue medication. If things like blood work are needed, I can send you off to a lab corp or something that I know is convenient to your house. In those instances, 50/50. Now that businesses are opening back up, it’s maybe more so the consults and the follow-ups that are able to be virtual, and that may represent collectively, 30% of the providers’ time spent in appointments but for the patient, it’s extremely convenient.

Alex: Yes, I would understand, like the first meeting with a new practice, I probably want to go in and meet the provider, but I never want to go in again. You know me, I know you, you know how crazy I am. We know each other like we don’t need to. I got it. 30% of the providers’ time then follow-ups. A lot of those, virtually 50%, maybe on low acuity initials. Very nice. Lauren, thanks for joining me on Ignite and talking about telehealth visibility and getting your practice out there so that we can get more virtual appointments.

Lauren: Awesome. Thanks, Alex.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast, and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

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