While the idea of telemedicine has been around for decades, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that this remote approach to healthcare became more widely accepted by patients and providers alike. Through the pandemic, telemedicine proved essential in keeping patients and providers safe, and it has become a viable care option for many. Surveys show that 84% of physicians offered virtual visits as of April 2021, and 57% of those would like to continue offering it. The onus is now on healthcare marketers to shift from reactionary marketing to being proactive.
So how can you roll telemedicine services into your already crowded marketing plan? Fortunately, it’s just a matter of solid planning, the right messaging, and strong marketing channel choices.
POSITIONING BY PERSONA
To craft your telemedicine marketing strategy, it’s important to understand that the need for the service has shifted from being necessary for everyone’s safety to being more about convenience. Now, people can see their providers as often as they need to without the challenges associated with transportation or taking time off from work or school. Promoting convenience becomes the theme, and planning messaging around your different audiences’ needs requires some planning.
Using your data from the last 18 months, determine who your primary users have been and will be going forward, so you can figure out how your telehealth services answer their needs, wants, and desires. Think why each persona would value the convenience of telemedicine. It could be that they feel more comfortable talking with a physician from the privacy and comfort of home. Or they appreciate the ability to see their physician more often. Each persona is likely to have a different reason why convenience resonates.
Next, determine what would hold each persona back from booking an appointment. Are they concerned they won’t get the same attention as an in-person visit? Do they find new technology difficult to navigate? Do they think telemedicine is less effective than in-person appointments? Speak to those concerns and how your offerings meet their specific needs.
Creating this positioning by persona is important. Remember, every other healthcare organization will probably continue using telemedicine too, so defining your positioning will be critical. While telemedicine overall is convenient, how does your offering differ from your competitors’?
FOCUS ON CHANNEL ENGAGEMENT
Once you have created compelling messaging for your different target personas, it’s time to develop your channel marketing plan. As a marketer, you know that each channel has different strengths and weaknesses. However, you should consider:
- Your website. It should come as no surprise, but the search term telehealth is still a hot commodity. According to SEMRush, it is still getting 90,500 daily searches in the United States, so you should ensure appropriate webpages are search engine optimized for telehealth search terms. Ensure that your website makes it is easy for people to schedule telemedicine appointments online. Then populate your blog with content about how to use telemedicine and patient success stories.
- Display advertising and search engine marketing. In a society in which many people have access to the internet on the phone in their pocket, you absolutely must use digital advertising and search engine marketing. Focus on optimizing your creative with telemedicine-related keywords.
- Paid social media. Using paid social media can be a cost-effective way to reach a hyper-targeted set of consumers, and innovative creative can help when competing with all the ads consumers see on their social channels. As always, make sure to monitor the performance closely.
- Email. Using a list of the people who have opted in to receiving marketing messages, send out an email blast letting past and present patients know you have telehealth capabilities. Include a lead magnet and provide valuable health-related content along with the pitch about telemedicine.
- Patient portal. If your patient portal can display ads or marketing messages, use it to let people know about telehealth options. They are an engaged audience, so you may see a better return from them.
- Traditional advertising. Traditional advertising can be effective through out-of-home signage, direct mail, radio, television, and print ads. Consider using these channels if it fits in your budget and with your target market.
- In-office signage. Patients will still come for in-person visits. Make sure signage is visible that communicates about your telemedicine offerings. This signage can drive awareness and help start conversations between patients and physicians.
- Telephone. Make sure your on-hold messaging includes promotion of your telemedicine services.
If your hospital or health system needs help developing or implementing a marketing plan for telehealth, LIGHTSTREAM is here to help. Our cost-effective traditional and digital marketing services have helped many healthcare organizations with their marketing efforts, and our streamlined processes can help turn your plans into reality. Contact us to learn more.