Here’s a totally unscientific marketing experiment: Look up from your smartphone (just for a moment) and scan the people at any Starbucks—or any airline departure lounge—or any street corner.
It’s become a social caricature: People of all ages have their heads down with a deeply-connected gaze into the mobile, tablet or laptop device in front of them. Even to the casual observer, it seems that social interaction has shifted from face-to-face to digital-digital. (And you probably saw the cartoon online.)
The point of this mildly amusing social phenomenon—something nearly everyone is guilty of—is that healthcare marketing needs to embrace the digital communications pathway more than ever before.
We’re all familiar with the backdrop. Patients begin their healthcare journey online. They find medical information and decisions regarding providers and hospitals are often guided by websites, blog posts, social media and other online resources.
What’s more, Internet marketing and advertising for doctors play a vital role in reaching, engaging and attracting new patients. Patient-provider relationships often begin with, and are nurtured by, online or digital contacts.
As we described previously in The Day of Digital Dominance Has Dawned, and Healthcare’s Digital Decision Makers the front-end pathway—the transition from prospect to patient—is increasingly Internet reliant.
The trend extends; beyond the first appointment…
“Formally defined, telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.” [American Telemedicine Association]
Telemedicine continues to grow. As mobile devices proliferate, they are projected to account for more than 60 percent of healthcare interactions within three years. In the same period, about 70 percent of healthcare organizations will have apps, offer wearables, provide remote monitoring and offer virtual care. [IDC]
Virtual consults are rapidly increasing. In less than five years, primary care virtual video consults will double, fueled in part by expanded insurance coverage.
Patients are ready to opt-in. “Three out of five people would at least sometimes choose telehealth visits to replace in-person visits for things such as follow-ups,” according to a Harris/eClinicalWorks poll. Also, “Three out of five people are likely to schedule appointments with their doctors via a secure website.”
Doctors would recommend telehealth. Better than 60 percent of doctors would, at least some of the time, recommend telehealth visits. [Harris Poll]
Telemedicine is a time- and space-shifter. The convenience factor in telemedicine applications provides major benefits to both patient and physician. Not only does it close the physical distance in remote situations, but it also saves time—a critical consideration in a busy medical practice.
Telehealth applications also deliver cost savings and operating efficiencies. Studies repeatedly find that patient satisfaction is high, and in many situations, consumers are demanding more convenient, high quality care. [Alliance for Connected Care]
Advances in technology and in consumer expectations are trending toward a deeper digital connection between patients and doctors. The same online connectivity that facilitates provider selection is now extending to continued engagement and doctor-patient communications and relationships.
Healthcare marketing—for physicians, hospitals and others—needs to remain connected to this trend, and to recognize the mutual benefits for patients and providers.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA
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