In parts one and two of this series, we learned that a lack of awareness and concerns about quality are holding many patients back when it comes to using telehealth and virtual care. In this third and final post, we’ll explore the myriad opportunities we have to encourage patients to give telehealth a try.
“Often, the best ways to get patients to actually try telehealth are far more grassroots.”
Part three: Every patient interaction is an opportunity for engagement
When it comes to educating patients about telehealth, the obvious forms of marketing and advertising come to mind: billboards, radio spots, pamphlets and posters in lobbies and waiting rooms. These are all great ways to build awareness of your virtual care offerings! But often, the best ways to get patients to actually try telehealth are far more grassroots.
As we can see in the graph above, marketing only provides a few channels for patient communication, while opportunities within the organization are numerous—and many of them are free!
Administrative staff are often the first point of contact between a healthcare provider and a patient. When a patient calls to make an appointment with a doctor and explains his or her symptoms, the scheduler or person taking the call can suggest the patient seek virtual care rather than waiting to come into the office. Call center employees can also recommend telehealth, as can people answering queries about benefits coverage. Build this into their workflow to make it a habit.
Once a patient is in the office, the person checking them in and/or out can recommend telehealth for the next time that patient needs care. This also provides a great opportunity to hand patients pamphlets or other printed materials promoting the use of virtual care.
“A recommendation to try telehealth from one of these trusted professionals can have a huge impact on patient behavior.”
Put simply: there is no one a patient trusts more with their health than their doctor, followed closely by the other healthcare professionals—medical assistants, nurses, and nurse practitioners—who work in their doctor’s office. A recommendation to try telehealth from one of these trusted professionals can have a huge impact on patient behavior. And that recommendation comes naturally if the patient is seeing the doctor for a condition or symptoms that could be easily addressed through virtual care, like a cold, UTI, or ear ache.
Giving clinicians a pamphlet or placard to during the conversation about telehealth can aid the conversation and build credibility for the virtual care solution they are recommending.
One of the most effective—even though it is slightly less personal— ways to encourage patients to use virtual care is through digital channels like the patient portal and email campaigns. Often, a tech-savvy patient will use the patient portal to schedule an appointment with their doctor. If they see that virtual care is available to them, and the steps to engage with it are simple, they are far more likely to use it.
As we discussed in part two, email campaigns are an effective way to reach out to patients, especially if you are strategic about which topics you send to specific segments of those patients. Seasonal campaigns can engage patients with telehealth as well. For example, patients who receive notification that they can use virtual health during cold and flu season will be happy to get care from the comfort of their own home (or bed, depending on the severity of the illness). Even better, those who are still contagious won’t expose other patients to the virus if they seek virtual care from home rather than at the doctor’s office.
Most patients who use telehealth report high satisfaction. And, as we discussed in one, happy patients like to tell their friends and family about their positive experience. Almost every touchpoint we outlined above provides an opportunity to ask for referrals to other patients. If the topic of telehealth comes up with a doctor, nurse, scheduler, or receptionist and the patient says they have already used it, that is a perfect time to ask them if they have told other people about it.
Having a smart telehealth strategy for your system is table stakes. Telehealth benefits patients, clinicians, and healthcare delivery systems through improved health outcomes for both individuals and populations, increased loyalty to providers, mitigating clinician burnout by allowing focus on the patient, not paperwork and boosts to the bottom line of systems. But implementing a virtual care platform is only the beginning. Success depends on more than simply building it and expecting them to come. Educating and encouraging clinicians and patients to use virtual care ensures triple aim goals are met and—often—exceeded.