Hoping to take advantage of a potential COVID-era boom in telehealth adoption and enthusiasm, SmileDirectClub has partnered with Meredith’s Foundry 360 content studio to launch Telehealth Explained. The largely unbranded platform, which went live today, offers a wealth of information about a healthcare delivery option that remains something of a mystery to many would-be users.
According to research conducted by J.D. Power between March 15 and May 1, the issue isn’t that people lack familiarity with telehealth: 75% of U.S. health insurance members said they are aware of it. But 54% aren’t sure if telehealth services are covered as part of their healthcare benefits – which, at a time of economic upheaval, might in itself be disqualifying.
Given the centrality of telehealth to its offering, SmileDirectClub would have been an ideal leader for an education effort regardless of timing. But amid a pandemic that has simultaneously idled many of the company’s SmileShops and increased demand for its virtual services, SmileDirectClub saw an opportunity to evangelize for telehealth in all its various forms.
“There could be no greater nudge [towards telehealth] than the current pandemic environment, regardless of the resistance that might have been there early on,” said SmileDirectClub CMO John Sheldon. “We’re listening to our customers, who had moved from starting in our SmileShops to starting with our impression kits at home, and they had a lot of questions.”
To that point, Telehealth Explained offers a wealth of information, ranging from FAQ fare (“Telehealth 101: How Technology Can Connect You to Healthcare” and “How to Get Kids Ready for a Telehealth Appointment”) to patient testimonials. The testimonials aren’t specific to products and services offered by SmileDirectClub and include details about patient experiences with teletherapy and virtual treatment of thyroid conditions.
“The idea is to make sure we put consumers’ minds at ease in terms of how broadly accessible telehealth can be,” Sheldon said.
George Baer III, VP-managing director at Meredith’s Foundry 360 content studio, which worked alongside SmileDirectClub to create Telehealth Explained, believes that SmileDirectClub filled a leadership void at a transformational moment in the technology’s evolution. “They were intrigued by getting the story out, because they felt it was a moment in time somebody needed to stand up,” he said. “In our research, it was evident nobody was doing this. Even some of the associations that support telehealth weren’t doing it.”
That’s likely to change as Telehealth Explained evolves over the next year or so. SmileDirectClub is in talks with other companies to come on board as what Sheldon calls “founding members.” While he declined to name names, likely candidates include organizations that similarly count telehealth as a core part of their offering.
“The larger players in the telehealth space are all experiencing such growth at the same time. They’re all leaning on each other,” Baer noted.
The Telehealth Explained content itself will similarly expand. Sheldon described the site’s launch iteration as “unidirectional – mostly us educating the public,” but expects that to change. “We want it to be much more community-focused,” he said.
Baer agreed, adding, “We can take this platform beyond a website. We can build it up as a social platform, or maybe create a publication that could be polybagged in doctors’ offices with Meredith magazines. A lot of the stories about how telehealth made a big difference for individuals and families in finding security in healthcare, they almost tell themselves.”