Why Marketing Should Have a Seat at the Virtual Health Table

Aug 20, 2019

Posted by Amanda Sheckman

Research shows that patients love using virtual health services once they try them — but many don’t even know that the option exists.

Virtual health programs at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have achieved high patient satisfaction rates. In fact, A Brigham and Women’s survey showed that 97% of patients were satisfied with their first telehealth encounter and would recommend the program.

But while many hospitals in the U.S. have begun investing in virtual health services, almost three-quarters of Americans surveyed by J.D. Power said they don’t have access to virtual health services or are unaware of telehealth options.

Those statistics highlight a golden opportunity for hospitals and health systems. By boosting awareness of virtual health services, they can differentiate themselves in the market and improve patient care and satisfaction — all while increasing utilization and access to care.

The way to boost access and awareness? Marketing.

Information technology (IT) and health care provider teams are considered the key stakeholders in virtual health services — because they implement the technology platforms and provide the clinical care. But without a strategy for engaging patients, you leave the potential value of your telehealth investment on the table, especially if you fail to consider barriers to accessing virtual health offerings.

The consumer engagement required for success is the health care marketer’s bread and butter. That’s why Reingold firmly believes that hospital marketing teams should be involved from the start of planning for any virtual health program. As experts in consumer outreach, we help determine how virtual health services fit the patient demands in a given market. Then we develop marketing campaigns that raise awareness, build brand value, and drive usage of virtual health care programs.

For example, we’re working with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to increase awareness and utilization of virtual health services. VHA is the nation’s largest integrated health network, with more than 9 million veterans enrolled, including nearly 3 million living in rural communities. Our strategic promotion of VHA’s virtual health services is the key to increasing access to care.

But marketing goes beyond just getting people in the virtual door.

Beyond their traditional roles in promotion and persuasion, health care marketers can and should help shape the patient experience — especially when it comes to virtual health services.

Just as a marketing campaign should maintain a consistent look and feel to build its audiences’ recognition and trust, virtual health products across a health care system should provide a seamless user experience, delivering on the promise of the system’s patient engagement tactics.

So what makes a good experience? It probably sounds familiar for health care marketers:

  • Information that’s easy to find and understand
  • Online tools that are easy to use
  • Content tailored to patients’ knowledge, needs, and ways of consuming information
  • A consistent patient experience across virtual health offerings

Marketing teams regularly meet these consumer expectations, which are fundamental to shaping patients’ perceptions of the virtual care they receive.

The integration of outreach and engagement with a high-quality consumer experience is creating a new paradigm — one in which marketing and communications teams work side by side with professionals in multiple disciplines across the health care system. Together, they can create successful virtual health programs.

Here’s what that paradigm looks like.

To help VHA bring its virtual health directly to patients, Reingold’s team works with stakeholder teams from across VA’s vast network of more than 1,200 facilities. Together with clinicians and specialists in IT, public affairs, quality, training, and hospital administration, we help shape the patient experience.

We optimize patient portals, design user-friendly interfaces for apps and clinical tools, create marketing materials that distill benefits into user-friendly language, and more. We also train hospital staffs to talk about and use virtual health technologies — ensuring that a patient never asks to use an application that a provider can’t discuss.

We’ve already entered the age of health care consumerism. Clearly, patients’ needs and habits are changing, and so are their expectations. Virtual health care has become a critical component of the patient experience — and the health care systems that involve marketing teams in designing and implementing their virtual health programs will come out on top.

Reingold’s team includes leading experts in virtual health marketing and patient engagement. To learn more and speak to one of our virtual health experts, email healthcare@reingold.com.