With the number of coronavirus cases in the United States on a dangerous upward trajectory, the World Health Organization is warning that the pandemic will get much worse if the basics aren’t followed including social distancing, washing your hands frequently, wearing masks and people staying at home if they feel ill. But, what do you do if you need medical attention and you don’t want to risk being exposed? Telehealth has become the temporary, but soon to be permanent, solution for millions of Americans.
In March 2020, when new Medicare provisions were made to allow physicians and medical specialists to seek reimbursement for telehealth services, many questioned how long this flexibility would last. But, with a new Medicare payment rule being considered by the Trump administration, plans to permanently expand Medicare’s reimbursement rule for telehealth services will usher in a new era of virtual medicine. More than 50% of physicians have already made the transition to telehealth to continue seeing patients during the pandemic. And insurance companies are following suit. As patient volumes continue to decline and more Americans are opting out of visiting the doctor’s office to reduce their COVID exposure, telehealth may be one of the only ways for insurance companies to make money beyond premiums.
But, is telehealth really the best option?
Most would argue yes, especially as virtual platforms like Skype and Zoom are looking to increase safeguards to become HIPAA-compliant. For Americans in the highest risk groups, telehealth provides them with a safe option to receive medical care. And, for those in rural populations, virtual medicine affords consistent access to healthcare that may not have been available previously.
Telemedicine doesn’t just offer the added layer of safety for patients during the pandemic, but it also gives patients innovative new ways to receive care. Here are some examples:
- E-visits for screenings and routine visits. Many hospitals are making it even easier for patients to keep their routine appointments and/or receive emergency telehealth screenings. Brigham and Women’s Hospital offers a wide range of e-visit options, including the option to immediately connect with a physician once a patient submits a symptoms survey through their patient portal.
- Virtual tours of medical facilities. This is the future of medicine, being able to virtual tour medical facilities without having to leave your home. The Children’s Hospital of Orange County offers several different 360-degree virtual tours of their state-of-the-art facilities. See them here.
- Virtual visits through telehealth apps. Cleveland Clinic Express Care, Mayo Clinic, Baxter Regional Healthcare and Piedmont Now are leading the way in virtual medicine with their innovative healthcare apps that are designed to connect patients with physicians by just clicking a few buttons. Other healthcare networks such as Kaiser Permanente are heavily leveraging healthcare apps to increase the number of patients they can see each month by 50%.
How should you promote your telemedicine offering?
Patients are now more willing than ever to consider using telehealth to receive care. As such you’ll want to make sure your messaging is clear as to both how the telehealth process works and the immediate benefits it provides patients. For more ideas on how to do this, https://marketingtelehealth.com/?p=1594. In addition, ensure you prominently place messaging on your website to announce your telehealth offerings. It can also be helpful to create FAQ-style posts and blogs that outline the most common conditions and symptoms you can treat or diagnose during a telehealth appointment as well as everything a patient may need to know before their appointment (i.e. technology needs, login information, cost, insurance process, etc.) To see how you can leverage social media to drive traffic to your new telehealth offerings, https://marketingtelehealth.com/?p=1577.
At least for the immediate future, telehealth is here to stay. But, chances are very good that as technology catches up and increases the ease of use for both patients and physicians, telehealth may become “the” way to receive medical care. Time will tell.