Before COVID-19, telehealth was not widely used. Although plenty of options existed, barriers including consumer awareness, physician acceptance and regulatory red tape prevented widespread adoption.
When the novel coronavirus hit the U.S., everything changed. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relaxed its regulations around and telehealth, and government bodies began encouraging providers to start using virtual healthcare in order to keep patients out of facilities unless absolutely necessary. Despite a slow start, telehealth suddenly exploded.
Within a few short weeks, telehealth providers went from facilitating hundreds of visits a day to thousands. ARPR client Updox experienced a more than 22,000% increase between March and April, and is now supporting more than 45,000 virtual visits per day. Physicians at Atrium Health, a provider network in North Carolina and Georgia, increased their telehealth visits by 500%. Both patients and providers have embraced telehealth in order to stay connected safely during COVID-19.
HealthLeaders described this surge in telehealth as “a lonely teenager who once struggled to make connections with a broader network of friends and was bound by strict parental controls, [and] suddenly, [it] has blossomed into the most popular kid in school.”
Companies or industries that experience sudden surges in popularity, however, are not always successful. So, how can HealthIT marketers ensure that teleheath keeps its teenage popularity status well beyond graduation?
HealthIT Marketing with an Emphasis on Humility
With growth on the upswing and competition heating up – including emerging vendors and even general tech companies jumping in to meet the demand for virtual visits – it is appropriate for telehealth providers to continue with public relations efforts around their brand. However, it’s not PR as usual. Humility is key.
It is important in this environment to demonstrate value, communicate around new offerings, ensure customers understand solution differentiators, and even highlight growth – but these should all be done from the perspective of how the industry can best support providers and meet shifting industry trends. For healthIT marketers, media relations requires extra care in this moment.
Telehealth companies that share data and insights on the industry, highlight the need virtual health solutions can fulfill both now and in the future, and provide thought leadership in the form of tips and strategies for physicians – all doing so under the umbrella of service to those on the frontlines – will be noticed.
Be bold in speaking up, but be humble in what you say.
Building Brand Advocates
Fostering strong ties with customers is one of the most important elements of brand success. Creating strong customer relationships helps build trust and loyalty, as well as advocates for the brand. According to Sprout Social, 74% of consumers and 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth marketing, so having customers touting the benefits of your services is key.
Take the time to engage authentically with your customers and ensure they have what they need. Meet them where they are, respond quickly and compassionately, and provide resources that help them do their jobs.
This can take form in a few ways:
- Resource Centers & Educational Materials: Providers are facing unprecedented challenges and are in need of support as they navigate the changing healthcare landscape. Offering virtual events, webinars, playbooks and other materials that answer their questions goes a long way. ARPR client Greenway created a series on telehealth billing, and Updox built a landing page with COVID telehealth materials which resulted in 3,000 pageviews and a 33% increase in social conversions in Q1.
- Email Marketing: Email is still one of the most effective channels to engage with customers – but actually building a relationship through email marketing requires personalization and timeliness. Messages also need to be brief, provide value, and not appear too often in your customers’ inboxes. The best content you can send right now is again about providing info that helps them solve their challenges.
- Social Media Engagement: Social has always been an important place to communicate with customers, but engagement unsurprisingly spiked since March. Twitter has grown 60%, LinkedIn usage has ramped up and Facebook is experiencing record usage. Engaging in a relevant, supportive way on social media is crucial. Not only can this help create strong customer relationships and brand ambassadors, but it can also result in attention from the media.
Need support marketing your telehealth or healthIT company during the pandemic? Visit our COVID-19 Marketing Resource Center.