Woman having a telehealth appointment on tabletThere’s no denying the telehealth rush created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid climbing infection rates and social distancing guidelines, the government lifted many regulatory barriers on telehealth. As a result, thousands of patients across the country quickly dove into this emerging space to seek care.

At New York University (NYU) Langone Health, virtual urgent care visits grew by more than 600% between March 2 and April 14, 2020. Non-urgent virtual care visits grew more than 40 times the normal daily average.

Meanwhile, at Cleveland Clinic, outpatient visits went from 2% virtual to 75% virtual between March 7 and April 11, 2020.

But what will happen after COVID-19? Once patients feel comfortable coming back to the clinic, how will you create a telehealth marketing plan that supports this valuable care platform?

A telehealth marketing plan for COVID-19 and beyond

While COVID-19 may have given your telemedicine platform a boost, you must keep it accessible beyond the pandemic. Expanding care options will not only help improve the health of your community; it may also give you a leg-up in your patient acquisition.

Following these guidelines will help the success of your telehealth marketing plan:

Simplify language around accessing telehealth

We preach a lot about using clear, plain language in healthcare. It should be no different in your telehealth marketing.

Remember that virtual care is going to be a new concept for many of your patients. Your patients’ tech knowledge is also going to vary greatly. Keep instructions, guidelines and set-up information as simple as possible by:

  • Avoiding technical jargon (no four-syllable words, please).
  • Using numbered or bulleted lists.
  • Keeping sentences short.
  • Adding visuals (provide screenshots of the user experience).

Make telehealth front-and-center on your website

Success in your telemedicine program will depend on any barriers your patients face. The easier it is for them to access the platform, the more likely they are to use it.

Make your telehealth offerings easy to see on your website. Consider adding a featured banner image that links to a landing page with more info, or provide a link in your site navigation. However you decide to showcase telehealth, be sure it’s not more than a click away.

Don’t forget about SEO

In the rush to create a webpage about your telehealth platform, it can be easy to put strategy to the side in favor of getting the page published faster. But taking the extra few hours to incorporate SEO tactics in the content will pay off in the long run.

After all, how will most new patients find your virtual care options? More often than not, they’re going to use a search engine like Google.

Aside from the usual SEO best practices, keep in mind the importance of local SEO. While there are some virtual care platforms that can span state lines, patients may still want that connection of a provider in their community.

Be up-front about pricing

One of the biggest challenges as a healthcare consumer is understanding insurance coverage for office visits and procedures. Often this hurdle causes patients to put off care. A 2017 study done by telehealth provider Avizia showed that one of the primary reasons why consumers don’t use telehealth is because of uncertainty around insurance coverage.

When it comes to your telemedicine offerings, consider posting price ranges for virtual visits — both for patients with insurance and without. Being up-front about the pricing can help remove barriers for hesitant patients. Along those same lines, make sure you’re clear about how you can defer costs for patients who may not be able to pay the virtual visit co-pay.

Share patient stories

When it comes to marketing healthcare — virtual or otherwise — current patients can be your most valuable brand advocates. Patient stories are a no-brainer for traditional healthcare marketing, so why not use them for your telehealth marketing, too?

Consider reaching out to patients who have used your virtual care platform and find positive testimonials. Use these quotes on your blog, social campaigns, website and digital advertising.

Get physician VIP buy-in

If you’re looking to boost awareness and use of telemedicine at your organization, a physician leader or executive can give some credibility to your cause. Once you have someone on board, consider having them:

  • Send an email to physicians encouraging use of the new platform.
  • Write a blog post for your employee intranet about the benefits of telehealth.
  • Speak with local media about your virtual care options.
  • Participate in a live Q&A or webinar about virtual care.

Emphasize real docs, real faces

Research by Gartner has shown that some patients — particularly those in rural communities — avoid telemedicine because they don’t want to miss out on the personal connection that an in-person visit provides.

Whether or not you serve rural communities, make sure you’re emphasizing real care from real doctors throughout your telehealth marketing plan. You don’t want patients to feel like they’re getting a different (read: lower) quality of care by using telemedicine.

Re-entering the market after COVID-19 will require a lot of trust and empathy in healthcare communications. To that end, you must show your patients that your physicians will be there to support them completely, whether it’s in-person or virtually.

Telehealth isn’t going away

Although the COVID-19 pandemic created a surge in telehealth participation, the use of virtual visits isn’t likely to dip anytime soon.

A Frost & Sullivan report released in May predicts telehealth will grow more than 64% in the U.S. this year. Thanks to this boost, the telehealth market is expected to grow more than 38% over the next five years.

It’s also important to consider a potential “second wave” of COVID-19. If the virus swings back around, will your patients be able to understand how to access their virtual care options easily? Having a solid telehealth marketing plan in place can help make sure your patients can get fast, effective care — pandemic or otherwise.

Find a marketing partner who can help you reach your audience. WriterGirl can provide custom content solutions for your COVID-19 communications and beyond. Drop us a line to learn more about our services.