The U.S. healthcare system is plagued with challenges resulting from a number of factors.  There’s an increasing shortage of doctors, a growing elderly population, and an aging infrastructure that contributes to wasted time, money, and other resources.  But, there is a shift happening towards technology-driven healthcare that can help offset these challenges, among them the growth of connected health and, specifically, telehealth services.

As with most new technologies, telehealth uptake was initially slow but more recently, it has seen significant growth.  From 2016-2017, momentum grew and telehealth use surged by 53% based on insurance claims – far outpacing growth at other care settings, such as urgent care center (up 14%) and retail clinics (up 7%).  The message is clear:  Patients are willing to try telehealth as an alternative to traditional care settings, and the regulatory support that has been seen over the past few years seems to be having a positive impact.

Certainly, patients are willing to try connected health services, like telehealth, based on their benefits, including convenience, access, and cost, but continued growth will depend on providers launching and growing their services to make them available to more patients.  For providers, there are several motivating benefits that connected health services could help deliver, including:

  • Creating new revenue opportunities through new services and access to new patient populations;
  • Reducing process inefficiencies and manual data entry thanks to data-driven automation;
  • Increasing patient satisfaction through more convenient access to care;
  • Driving population health management and preventative care initiatives;
  • Building doctor-patient relationships through increased awareness and engagement; and
  • Supporting a shift to value-based care models.

Whether providers are looking to grow their telehealth businesses or are just beginning to implement the technology and launch services, understanding the benefits is the first step.  But, there are several key points to keep in mind when building a telehealth services business that can help drive growth.

Know Your Patients

The easiest target is existing patients and knowing their preferences and habits can make it easier to target the right populations.  While launching new services practice-wide can increase access, targeting the right patient groups – those who are most likely to jump on the telehealth bandwagon – can give programs a jump start.  For instance, patients who regularly reschedule appointments may appreciate the convenience of telehealth visits.  Patients who frequently visit walk-in clinics or emergency centers may find telehealth an effective alternative.  In fact, 80% of emergency virtual visits resolve problems without requiring a trip to the hospital.  Families with multiple children, working Millennials, and other specific patient populations may also make excellent target populations.

Easy Access

Just as they demand easy access from their other services, patients are more likely to use your connected health services when they are easy to access.  Provider websites, including specific pages that your target groups are likely to visit (e.g., pediatrics web pages, primary care pages, insurance pages, etc.) should promote your services.

Education

Take every opportunity to tell your patients about the benefits of telehealth.  Use your newsletters to promote the services and their benefits, including how patients can start using them.  Specific use cases, including anonymous case studies from patients that have used the services, may motivate other patient to try them.  Text or email appointment reminders are another opportunity to promote telehealth to patients who are already comfortable using technology with their healthcare environments.

Internal Promotion

It’s equally important to promote connected health internally.  Physicians and staff need to understand how these services will benefit them and help them deliver better health outcomes.  They are more likely to want to promote them when they understand that connected health solutions may help reduce their administrative workloads, lower their stress levels and avoid burnout, and increase revenue.  When provider staff are on board, it increases their desire to promote their connected health services to patients.

Patient Reviews

Make sure patients have the opportunity to provide feedback on your services.  This not only provides insight into where services may or may not be meeting expectations but can give insight into which physicians are delivering a better telehealth experience.  Those experiences can serve as models for others.  Feedback is still another opportunity to engage patients and can provide positive experience for promoting services, while giving providers a chance to improve services for patients whose expectations were not met to retain them.

Telehealth use has already started to emerge as a real alternative to traditional healthcare delivery, and as more patients have positive experiences, word will continue to spread.  For providers, telehealth and other connected health services present an opportunity to help their patients as well as their own practices.

To learn more about how to introduce connected health services, visit us here.