Telehealth and virtual care are here to stay. There’s simply no other way to put it. While volumes of virtual visits are down from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is undisputed evidence from every analyst researching telehealth usage that it has stabilized, and it is on the rise if you take out the artificial anomaly that is COVID-19. McKinsey reported that telehealth use overall has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic, ranging from 13% to 17% of visits across all specialties. The same report demonstrates that although usage has dropped slightly since its peak in spring 2020, patient and physician attitudes toward telehealth have improved, and that about 40% of surveyed consumers said they planned to continue using telehealth moving forward, up from 11% prior to COVID-19.
About half of the U.S. population has tried telehealth since the pandemic began. That’s compared with less than 25% before, according to a Time/Harris Poll survey fielded in May 2021. This is reinforced by other polls such as a national tracking poll by Morning Consult in October 2021 that shows 51% of those respondents said the same thing.
It’s also important to note that virtual care consults are not only about primary care and behavioral health visits. While primary care and behavioral health rank high in the services category, the third most used therapy was for chronic conditions, such as allergies or diabetes, among other things, according to a report from Insider Intelligence in January 2022. When you look at the individual breakdowns of each therapeutic category, you find that dermatology, neurology, cardiology and oncology all rank significantly high in total visits, which demonstrates that people are utilizing telehealth for follow-up visits and questions prior to going to see a physician in person.
The same Insider Intelligence report shows patients actually want more than just a synchronous video consultation and added features within the consult create a competitive edge for the telehealth providers themselves. Almost half of all patients say they’re looking for access to general health content, as well as in-visit features such as a virtual waiting room and an option for prescription drug delivery.
What should this say to us as marketers?
It demonstrates that not only should we look at telehealth seriously as a unique and different marketing and advertising option, but we should also recognize that there is immense opportunity to ideate and develop innovative solutions that reach patients who are looking for information that goes beyond their HCP consult.
It’s also important to recognize it’s a unique medium. It’s a medium that provides the most targeted patient or HCP since it is the only platform that can guarantee you are reaching someone who is definitely your audience at a moment prior to their consult. However, it also means that it can’t necessarily be measured in the same way other solutions are measured.
Do you really want to take someone away from the HCP at the moment they are about to potentially discuss your brand by making a clickable link that drives them out of their path to care?
There are numerous ways to leverage this extremely valuable medium and recognize the measurement surrounding the engagement needs to be looked at differently, as it is not a one for one comparison to either digital display or traditional point of care. It also provides completely unique and differentiated opportunities to drive someone into a consult from existing media strategies. When we look at telehealth and virtual care, it’s important to make the most out of it, recognize it is a differentiated medium and keep in mind the exciting growth that it will continue to have among the patient population.