Doctor appointments take a good chunk of time out of your day. When you are legitimately sick and need to have tests done, going to the office in person is a must. But what if you have a minor issue that the doctor can solve in a few minutes? Maybe you just need a new prescription, have a few general questions, or have something that requires only a visual diagnosis. Now there is a new trend called telemedicine in which patients can meet with doctors via webcam without leaving their home or office. Two-thirds of surveyed patients said they would make a telemedicine appointment, they just don’t know how. It’s not enough to offer the service, you also have to know how to correctly market the service to patients.
So how does it work? Patients can register for telemedicine services, list their symptoms, and then are connected to the appropriate doctor. After a video chat the patients can upload photos for the doctor to review. The average appointment lasts 15 minutes and has a flat cost of $40 per session. Programs like Doctor on Demand let licensed doctors consult with patients about allergies, cold and flu, chronic pain, anxiety, women’s health, skin infections and more. Patient information is kept on file and they can request to speak with the same doctor again.
There are pros and cons to using telemedicine. On the up side, there is significantly less wait time, accessing a doctor is easier and faster, it is cheaper, and 24 states now legally require health insurers to cover it. However, there are limited medical issues that can be treated from a computer, doctors don’t have a history with the patients, and 20 percent of Americans don’t have easy internet access.
Patient feedback to telemedicine services has been generally positive. “Jacob”, a recent user of the service, said, “I started to have a sore throat and I used this service for the first time. I called and got with a Doctor right away and told them my symptoms and he prescribed me with antibiotics right away. My prescriptions were sent right over to my pharmacy with no hassle. I didn’t have to wait long and it was a lot easier for me because I did it as soon as I got home from work. I made the call in my living room. For being a first time customer, I would gladly use this service again!”
Healthcare providers that wish to offer telemedicine need to implement a few marketing strategies to be successful. First, know your client base. Just like with any business, it is imperative to know your target audience. What are their channels of communication? What issues are they having that can be addressed with this service? Then you need to create a unique message to inform your current and recent patients. Telemedicine is an unfamiliar trend to patients and they need to know how to use it and when it’s appropriate to use a webcam over an in-person appointment. To reach new clients, create content on your website that will get indexed and ranked high on Google searches for people that are looking for this service. A blog that identifies the advantages of using telemedicine services can bring visitors to your site, where you can then nurture them to a patient. Lastly, print some professionally designed brochures to distribute in hospitals and waiting rooms.
Telemedicine won’t replace in-person healthcare anytime soon, but it is a great way to help make the busy lives of doctors and patients easier. And if your practice does decide to offer this service, make sure you do the proper marketing in advance to create awareness and understanding.