This sponsored article was written by Andy Kennedy, Vice President of Enterprise Sales at Doctor.com. Doctor.com empowers physicians and hospitals to engage patients at key digital touchpoints through award-winning physician directories, web-wide reputation management, seamless online scheduling, and now best-in-class telemedicine – all from one unified platform.
Before COVID-19 ripped across the country, telemedicine had been quietly gaining traction for years. Then the pandemic hit, sending usage into overdrive. Between 2019 and the beginning of this crisis, adoption rates climbed from 8% to 50% — and virtual appointments are projected to top 1 billion by the end of this year.
As elective procedures were postponed and ERs became inundated with new cases, hospitals had to pivot how they care for patients. Telemedicine, naturally, took a priority.
The global healthcare emergency put pressure on hospitals to get a virtual platform in place — fast, without adequate time to research, test, and optimize. Many have learned that telemedicine solutions can vary significantly when it comes to security, convenience, quality, and key features. Now that parts of the country have begun to stabilize, hospitals have the bandwidth — and the imperative — to reassess the technology and workflows they quickly put in place to meet patient demand as well as the organization’s needs.
All signs indicate that telemedicine isn’t going anywhere: In a recent study, 83% of patients said they expect to use virtual appointments after COVID-19 ends. Hospitals must think long term, as momentum around telemedicine continues to build and it becomes integral to the future of care. Here’s what to look for.
1. A HIPAA-compliant platform to outlast the pandemic
At the start of the pandemic, HIPAA regulations were temporarily relaxed, allowing popular consumer-facing platforms to be deployed for telehealth. Physicians turned to Skype, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime, among others, to care for patients during the global healthcare emergency. Unfortunately, concerns around physician privacy and recent security breaches — including so-called “Zoombombings” — quickly raised red flags. And once HIPAA regulations come back into place, these stopgaps will no longer be viable.
2. Easy-to-use technology that drives patient adoption
Across all demographics, ease of use is the #1 factor influencing patients to make a virtual appointment. Having to download and install a new app — or be met by a complicated sign-in process — introduces significant barriers to patient adoption. Simplicity is paramount. Look for a solution that’s straightforward and patient friendly so patients actually use it.
3. Listings that reflect the hospital’s new telemedicine capabilities
An effective “digital front door” strategy has never been more critical than during these unprecedented times. To make access to care even more seamless, telemedicine capabilities need to be broadcasted across your web-wide listings — wherever a patient may be looking for care and finding your physicians. These include third-party sites, directories, and search engines, like Google, Healthgrades, and WebMD, as well as the physician directory on your own website. (Bonus: Secure a telemedicine appointment through online booking wherever a patient finds a provider.)
4. High-definition video and superb sound quality
Patients don’t want to sacrifice quality during the virtual appointment — and they shouldn’t have to. A virtual visit should reflect the in-person experience. Unfortunately, tech glitches — like dropped calls, pixelated video, frozen screens, and intermittent sound loss — create a frustrating patient experience, which could either drive them into a competitor’s arms or, worse, cause them to give up on telemedicine entirely.
5. Reputation integration to win patient trust and grow a pipeline
Reading online reviews from peers has become a key part of the patient journey. And now, more than ever, as they navigate this new world of virtual appointments, patients will seek validation online before choosing to visit a hospital or see a particular physician. Look for a telehealth platform that can help you seamlessly build your hospital’s brand through in-platform review collection. This is critical to both gain buy-in from patients about telemedicine and establish a stellar reputation for when they’re ready to walk back through your doors.
On September 30, Doctor.com will host a Backstage Pass session on why telemedicine is key to safely reintroducing nonurgent care at hospitals, what marketers are doing to get patients through the door, and how to differentiate your services in a competitive marketplace. Register for the free event here.