On the surface, telehealth seems like something that everyone should’ve been comfortable with a long time ago. Instead of making the trip to the doctor’s office, all you need is a teleconsultation from the comfort of your own home, and you get the treatment that you need at half the hassle.
But between unreliable sources on the internet, uneven access to technology, and doubts about the level of healthcare received, many patients are still understandably hesitant about embracing the capabilities of healthcare. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
If nothing else, the global pandemic showed patients and providers alike the possibilities of adopting telehealth on a larger scale. And while not strictly a necessity anymore, many healthcare and wellness companies have increasingly pushed for the inclusion of telehealth in their services. The question is: how to convert hesitant patients?
Telehealth may have seen an overall general boost during the height of the global pandemic, but it can be difficult to gauge how much growth it's actually experiencing without looking at some numbers. Here are some quick statistics that you should know:
Telehealth visits increased by 50% in the first quarter of 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The average telehealth consultation is around 13 to 15 minutes long
Around 93% of patients use telemedicine to manage their prescriptions
69% of telehealth patients would use teleconsultations for common illnesses or conditions
Telehealth market size is estimated to be around 224 billion dollars by 2030
Primary care providers sharply increased telehealth support, with 40% or more growth in 2021
While the numbers may take a while to stabilize as the world gets used to the new normal, the impact is clear: telehealth isn’t going anywhere. More importantly, practices (both medical and aesthetic) need to seriously think about increasing their support for teleconsultations.
So how exactly can providers make telehealth more trustworthy for their patients? The key concern that you’ll have to address is primarily about trust: specifically, that patients can trust that your telehealth services are just as good as going to your office.
Once a patient has confidence in your practice’s ability to respond to their concerns even without physically being there, then telehealth becomes a more feasible option for you to market to your patients – or anyone who happens to need your medical and wellness services.
Here are the different ways you can make that happen.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (or HIPAA) is a federal law that regulates the protection of a patient’s health information (PHI), and the rules about disclosing this information. It’s this law that prevents practices from simply revealing anything about their patients to advertise their services. Violating it can have heavy penalties.
However, that doesn’t mean that all your content can’t talk about your patients. It’s possible to get HIPAA-compliant testimonials and other content published with a little creativity and written consent and authorization from your patients.
By doing this, you show your audience that you’re fully committed to complying with all the rules and regulations expected from your practice – but more importantly, it builds trust that you put your patient’s safety and well-being first, while also upholding their rights.
One possible reason why patients generally distrust telehealth appointments is that it can be difficult to get clarifying information through teleconsultations. Many patients still prefer the immediacy of just asking their doctor a question, especially for crucial medical information that they may not understand.
To make telehealth more trustworthy for your patients, you’ll need to show them that they’ll get the exact same level of care and support that they expect from their usual doctor consultations. This is especially crucial for long-term conditions or treatments that require frequent check-ups.
A good way to do this is to create content that can define these terms or clarify any potential confusion for your patients. It’s all-too-easy to get wrapped up in medical jargon trying to define the exact things that your patient should know, but by making things more understandable, your practice becomes more relatable.
Not all patients have the same urgency with their concerns. Some may just be looking for clarification on a treatment that they already know about, or are brushing up on knowledge that they think they’ve forgotten. Compiling these frequently asked questions into a dedicated landing page on your website is a great way to get more traction on your content.
You might think that this approach may draw people away from your telehealth consultations since they already got the answer from your webpage – but that’s where CTAs for your telehealth services come in. Make it clear to your patients that while the information on your website can help them with their concerns, the best thing to still do is to schedule a teleconsultation with you.
Ideally, the goal of this step is to give your patients a reason to trust what you’re going to say in the telehealth consultation, if only because they know that the information on your website is credible.
Consistency is by far the most important part of building trust. Patients are far more likely to trust providers that are consistent with their messaging, especially with their content production.
This gives them the reassurance that your healthcare and wellness company is always up-to-date on the latest developments in your industry – and more importantly, that you’re available to accept patients. Simply being visible and responsive (even if queries aren’t involved) is a subtle yet powerful way of making your practice more trustworthy.
For telehealth consultations, this sense of being “right there, when you need it” is one of the best reasons why you should make your content creation and publishing as consistent as possible. If nothing else, it gives your audience the confidence they may need to at least start the engagement process with you.
Plenty of online traffic these days comes from mobile devices. For telehealth providers, this means optimizing their content and their services to be more accessible via mobile and other platforms aside from PCs.
This is especially crucial since teleconsultations can sometimes take place in locations where patients don’t have access to a working computer but do have access to their phones. By optimizing content (and their overall website) for mobile use, telehealth providers can expand the scope of their services and make them more accessible to more patients.
Even simple, small changes like responsive design can drastically improve your engagement. More importantly, it shows that you care enough about the patient experience to make these changes – all of which help towards building trust in your telehealth services.
Healthcare and wellness services are an ever-evolving field: and a significant driver in their progress is how patients react to their treatments. For practices and providers, keeping an eye on your patient’s feedback is one of the best ways to ensure that you continue to provide a high standard of service.
By responding to common patient concerns, you potentially cut down on the time needed for your telehealth consultations – as your patients don’t need to ask too many questions anymore about their other concerns and you can focus on their treatments.
Highlighting patient concerns also gives your other patients the assurance they need to trust your telehealth services since it also serves as an assurance that you’ve handled patients with similar concerns successfully. While not equivalent to patient testimonials (since those need to stay HIPAA-compliant), they’re nonetheless an effective way to build trust in your treatments.
Telehealth is a far more feasible option post-COVID, but providers need to also come up with strategies to continue building trust in this type of service even after a global pandemic. Specifically, providers need to:
When adopting this approach, you need to make sure that your clients feel like they can easily approach you – and that the level of care they’ll experience through telehealth will be the same as the one they’ll get if they were to ever drop by your practice.
Telehealth has always shown a lot of promise for healthcare and wellness practices. But with the unique circumstances faced by patients and providers in the last three years, it’s a service that’s here to stay. By creating content, building trust, and engaging with current and potential patients alike, you can push your telehealth as a core service you can provide – and make your services more accessible and trusted everywhere.