Telehealth has been slowly on the rise in Australia but it’s now here with bells on as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The telehealth trickle is about to turn into a flood. Medicare rebates were initially expanded to cover suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, then extended to support quarantined or vulnerable doctors. Now, all GPs can bulk bill phone or video consultations with their patients. Specialists, mental health providers and allied health professionals now form part of the telehealth eligibility criteria.
Maybe you’ve hastily adopted telehealth due to the pandemic and now have your arrangements in place. Before we consider how to launch your service, pause to remind yourself why you’re offering telehealth.
Telehealth: Think Beyond the Virus
For the sake of your patients and your practice, it’s important to think beyond the virus when it comes to the game-changer that is telehealth.
COVID-19 has changed the world and it’s hard to see past it right now. Some things will not go back to their pre-virus state – and that may include healthcare, which is experiencing a paradigm shift. Face-to-face consultations will remain important post-virus but it’s likely that, having experienced telehealth, many patients will want to continue using it, at least for some elements of their care.
That’s because telehealth makes healthcare more convenient and accessible for busy patients, those who live in rural and remote areas, or those who struggle to get out of the house.
If you’re offering a telehealth service, you should plan for longevity. Right now, telehealth has been hastily expanded to protect public health and healthcare professionals. Those are very important considerations.
As a practice owner, you’re obviously motivated to protect the health of your patients and staff. But you should also be thinking about the long-term health of your practice as a business. Telehealth may be the service that keeps your practice afloat right now when other bookings are dropping. Post-virus, it might be key to growing your practice, helping you gain and retain patients.
How Do You Launch a Telehealth Service?
Ordinarily, a great deal of planning goes into the launch of a new product or service. You’d hone your key messages, clearly define your target audience, find an influencer they’ll listen to, drop hints on social media to create intrigue, prepare your promotional materials and then launch to a nice big fanfare.
But we’re in highly unusual times right now. All those elements remain important but much of the ground for telehealth service uptake has been laid by fear of spreading the coronavirus and our already increased dependence on digital tools for just about everything in life. The market is highly favourable to telehealth right now.
Launching your service still requires effective marketing though. You still need to hone your key messages, define the target audience and let them know your service is here.
Here are our recommendations for launching your telehealth service:
- Staff: Clearly explain the new service to all your frontline staff and encourage them to tell every patient about it. Make a telehealth crib-sheet and place it near the phones to ensure your receptionists understand how the service works and remember to offer it to every patient who rings up for a normal appointment.
- Current patients: Add a slogan like ‘Want an online consultation?’ or ‘We now offer telehealth’ or ‘Would you prefer to videoconference your doctor?’ to every touchpoint your patient has with your practice, such as invoices, your website and your social media posts. A week or so later, send a second email that reminds people of your service and suggests how they might use it.
- Your email list: You have a large database of patients, many of whom you don’t see very often or who may have moved to another practice now. Tell this large mailing list about your telehealth service in a brief, explanatory email that:
- Has a clear and meaningful title – ‘You can now see our doctors online’ is far better than ‘A message from our practice’
- Briefly explains the service then provides a link to your website for more detailed information
- Calls them to action by encouraging them to book a telehealth appointment or call for more information.
- Prospective patients: Here, you need a strong inbound marketing campaign that uses SEO strategies, Facebook and Google ads, social media posts, and content marketing (telehealth videos and blogs on your website) to help people searching for a telehealth provider to find you. Doing this now, when telehealth is in its infancy in Australia, will help you be ahead of the competition once everyone is offering it because you will have built up more credibility with Google in the meantime.
- Referral networks: Inform your professional colleagues about your new service and explain how it may benefit them.
Whenever you launch a new service, you need to review it. There may not be much time for that right now but, if you can, it’s worth sending telehealth patients a feedback form, asking about their experience of the service. This will help you fine-tune your service and the information you provide to ensure it is working well.
How Can Splice Marketing Help You?
Our team of expert healthcare marketers can launch your telehealth service for you, providing content marketing, social media management and SEO services to ensure your practice reaps the rewards of telehealth and is well-positioned to thrive in a new healthcare paradigm.
Contact us today for your free strategy session and let us help you get your telehealth service up and running sooner.