Public Relations

The Telehealth Series: Hospital Adoption Doubling; There’s Room on the Marketing Leaderboard

By Melissa Baratta | On March 14, 2018

Telehealth is rapidly gaining traction in the healthcare industry. A recent survey by Teladoc and Becker’s Healthcare showed that it’s on track to nearly double this year from 2016: 76% of U.S. hospitals and health systems either have “in place or expect to implement a consumer telehealth program by 2018” and 69% expect to expand their offerings. While hospitals adopt at this swift pace, health tech companies continue to innovate – B2B and consumer telehealth startups that offer everything from dental services to nurse and psychologist visits and radiologist consultations have popped up one after the other, with some companies landing as much as $22 million in funding. Why all the interest?

The Teladoc survey cited a few important drivers for hospital and health systems to adopt telehealth:

  • Improve access to care
  • Improve care coordination
  • Increase efficiency
  • Prevent readmissions
  • Expand population health programs

Hospitals intend to provide a wide range of services through telehealth, but primary care stands out as the top use case in order to prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

While hospitals are adopting telehealth to increase efficiency, obtain higher quality outcomes and improve patient care, and ultimately impact the bottom line, patients are also really interested in taking advantage of telehealth options.

Telehealth was initially developed for serving rural or underserved populations – and still does serve a very important purpose for these patient populations – but it is now being explored and used for the general patient. We live in a digital world, where information, social connections, food, rides, flights, and virtually any product you want to order can be obtained quickly and easily on your smartphone or online. It makes sense that patients want the same convenience and accessibility from their healthcare provider. In fact, a survey by American Well last year showed that 50 million Americans would switch to a provider that offered telehealth.

That begs the question – if you’re among the 76% of health care systems that either has a telehealth system in place or is implementing one this year, or even that 69% that’s expanding your program this year – do you have a strong marketing plan to tell your patient base about it?

While telelehealth is being adopted at a rapid rate, from a branding perspective, there are relatively few big players that own the space and are mentioned frequently in conjunction with the term. As hospitals adopt telehealth services, it provides an important marketing opportunity; this is the time to communicate the numerous benefits you’re offering and how the service provides value to patients.

In our next Telehealth Series post, we’ll review what should go into a PR and marketing plan, and some examples of healthcare organizations doing a great job marketing their offerings.

Melissa Baratta

Melissa is a Senior Vice President at Affect, where she uses her extensive background working with technology and healthcare companies to raise her clients’ brand profiles and position them as thought leaders in their respective industries. As an expert in stakeholder communications, she is adept at helping clients develop creative ways to communicate thoughtfully with their key audiences. Prior to joining Affect, Melissa served as Managing Director for Ricochet Public Relations.