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COVID-19 Outbreak: Telehealth Leads the Charge in Healthcare Marketing

As COVID-19 begins to wane in some areas of the world, healthcare marketers are entering a new landscape. Telehealth and telemedicine applications and services take the lead in the new post-COVID world.

For emergency department care to remote patient monitoring for chronic care management and access to care from specialists, telehealth has been changing the way health care is provided the past few years. But with the number of coronavirus cases increasing exponentially with each passing day, health care systems are turning to telemedicine to help contain and minimize the spread of the infectious disease.

As of April 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 427,460 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and counting. The U.S. currently has approximately 100,000 ICU beds with most hospitals already functioning at full or near-fill capacity. According to John Hopkins University, 200,000 to as many as 2.9 million patients could present to United States hospitals with coronavirus. As healthcare workers face an influx of patients and limited protective equipment, telehealth will play an important role in helping triage and treat patients. With new health services comes new health marketing strategies, and we’re here to help marketers find their footing during these uncertain times.

Marketing in a Telehealth World

  1. Make Your Telemedicine Service Easily Accessible – Your patients don’t want to be surfing through your entire website to find the link. Make sure you are promoting your service throughout your website or mobile app.
  2. Promote Your Service Internally – It’s obviously important to tell your patients and consumers about your telemedicine program, but be sure that your staff, doctors, nurses, and providers know about it too.
  3. Integrate Ratings and Reviews – Ratings and reviews help patients evaluate and choose carefully, and as a new service in this pandemic, it will be helpful to read real reviews from other patients who saw your doctors in this new care setting. 
  4. Incorporate Content Marketing – If your patient is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the first thing they are going to do is search when is the right time to call a doctor and get tested. Content marketing is a great way to answer your users’ questions and provide unique, benefit-rich insight into trending health topics.

Telehealth Law Changes in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to make its way across America and flooding hospitals near capacity, the federal government has been making temporary changes to healthcare laws in order to encourage telemedicine and make care more accessible for vulnerable populations. The 200 million dollar program, born out of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law in March, and it aims to give healthcare providers the resources for improving connected health programs to patients in their homes and other remote locations. The funds will be used for telehealth equipment, broadband connectivity, and other resources.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) implemented changes, like waiving restrictions on payment for telemedicine so that seniors can use remote services for coronavirus treatment. The HHS will also temporarily relax some HIPPA requirements to allow doctors to provide telehealth services with their personal phones and use enforcement discretion related to copays to minimize cost barriers. The HHS will allow providers to deliver telehealth services for any diagnostic or treatment purpose, even those unrelated to COVID-19, as long as it is done in “good faith.”

Since these changes multiple hospital and private practices have raced to set up their telemedicine system in order to meet the high demands and coronavirus cases continue to rise exponentially. Bright.md is now offering a free COVD-19 evaluation and screen tool to all hospitals in the United States to tackle the spread of this virus. Hospitals will be able to add Bright.md’s screening tool for free based on their individual delivery platform. The tool guides the patient through a medical review including health history, possible travel history, or general exposure to COVID-19. If the software detects that the patient has coronavirus, it will direct the individual to care. The tool will ensure patients’ access to advice from home, 24 hours a day, to allow patients to stay quarantined during the crisis.

How Your Healthcare Practice Can Benefit from Telemedicine

Telehealth is helping reduce the spread of the virus to mass populations and is bridging the gap between people, physicians, and the health system. By deploying telehealth programs, people who are suffering from other medical ailments, aside from coronavirus, can receive care from home, without entering medical facilities, minimizing the risk of contracting the virus.

Telemedicine also helps minimize risk to healthcare workers. Telemedicine carts are becoming the new norm in hospitals around the country. The carts allow workers to roll video cameras and other telemedicine equipment into a patient’s room so a physician could check-in without physically being bedside. Physicians at Providence Washington are using telemedicine technology to talk with patients, evaluate them with electronic stethoscopes, and keep communications lines open without needing an infectious disease doctor to have to gown up and go in and out of the room multiple times a day, utilizing already low personal protection equipment.

Marketing in a Telehealth World

COVID-19 has forced healthcare marketing to adapt to a changing ecosystem where telehealth and telemedicine access is not a luxury anymore but a necessity for potential patients.

Health systems have been ramping up marketing for their telemedicine service in connection with COVID-19. If your healthcare practice is considering rolling out a telehealth service during this outbreak, here are four easy ways you can promote your services and help flatten the curve.

Make Telemedicine Easy to Access

You want to make sure that your virtual care service is easy to access. Your patients don’t want to be surfing through your entire website to find the link, especially if they have achy bodies and high fever. Make sure you are promoting your service throughout your website or mobile app. Include a call-to-action on your primary care service landing page.

Your homepage should also draw attention to telemedicine. Consider adding a rotating homepage banner that describes the many different care options you are offering during this pandemic, including a link to your telehealth service and a page with COVID-19 testing centers.

Promote it Internally

It’s obviously important to tell your patients and consumers about your telemedicine program, but be sure that your staff, doctors, nurses, and providers know about it too. Help internal staff better understand the initiative so that they support the telehealth program through continued participation and advocacy. Not only will they be able to spread the word to friends and family on their social media, but it’s a great way to explain the new direction and strategy that your organization is embracing in the midst of the outbreak.

Integrate Ratings and Reviews

If you already had a telehealth program running before the outbreak and have integrated ratings and reviews across your website, especially for provider profiles, you’re off to a strong start! Nearly 80 percent of patients look to ratings and reviews in their healthcare consumer journey. If you just started your virtual practice, integrate reviews onto your telehealth landing page. Send surveys to patients to rate their experience and ask them to leave a review on your website about the provider who assisted them. Be sure to cross-promote those star physicians on location profiles. Ratings and reviews help patients evaluate and choose carefully, and as a new service in this pandemic, it will be helpful to read real reviews from other patients who saw your doctors in this new care setting. 

Incorporate Content Marketing

If your patient is experiencing a dry cough and a high fever, the first thing they are going to do is search what to do if they have symptoms for coronavirus and when is the right time to call a doctor and get tested. Telemedicine content marketing can help answer their question.

“Yes, if you have a dry cough, high fever, and difficulty breathing you should probably see a doctor! But wait! Here’s where our telehealth service can meet you in the middle and decrease the spread of infectious diseases, like COVID-19 without having to leave your cozy bed.”

Content marketing is a great way to answer your users’ questions and provide unique, benefit-rich insight into trending health topics. If your practice has recently posted a blog on coronavirus and its effect on pre-existing health conditions, make telemedicine a call to action on the article so you can drive traffic and interest, and hopefully increase visibility and awareness of your service. Leverage your social media to promote your telehealth program with clever content that will stick in your follower’s mind when they are in need of an immediate diagnosis.

Telemedicine was already changing the way health care was provided over the last few years, but COVID-19 is pushing healthcare systems to innovate the way they provide care in order to reach larger audiences with little contamination. Health marketing is a crucial piece of promoting your telehealth program and encouraging patients to stay home and receive care rather than going to physical location and risk spreading or contracting the disease. When it comes to public health threats of this magnitude, we are all in this together.