With Covid-19, came a flood of new telehealth (virtual consultation) solutions, exposing more patients to its benefits and features. More advertisements, more awareness and more conversations have brought telehealth to a wider audience, and this can only be of benefit to everyone. However, the question remains, how do we create that trust in telehealth for the patient, so that they turn to it the next time they need healthcare?
1. Be the one providing the benefits of telehealth and start the conversation
I was talking to my provider, and I asked him: How did you get telehealth right, so fast? He said, I tell my patients they are crazy if they don’t use it. He talks to them about it in his rooms and makes it a part of his counseling. It focuses on the benefits of telehealth for the patient, such as the convenience factor, and the fact that it saves time and money by not having to drive to their rooms. He mentions the fact that he can generally extend care on the same day, charging them less, and often offers a free consultation to take advantage of his solution. He also noted that his patients, despite their general perception of telehealth as a solution, do not begin to trust the service until after he introduces the topic.
2. Marketing your service
The problem with telehealth is letting patients know that healthcare providers are already providing it. It probably takes a long time and I often see my provider give up after a month or so, saying their patients just didn’t care. Most of the time, they didn’t even know they could use it.
However, these same patients continue to use WhatsApp and email – which are forms of telehealth though not necessarily secure.
It’s not uncommon for practices to have a single pager that they design with the benefits for their patients, and how to use it, and it’s a great place to include consultation prices. Patients love to have something tangible. Posting information on Facebook, LinkedIn, and community posts is also a common practice. One very effective idea I’ve seen in practice is a fridge magnet that contains vital information about a telehealth solution. The patient could attach it to the refrigerator door, not only because it was practical, but it also served as a constant reminder that the healthcare provider provided such a service in the first place.
3. Easy talk
This was great advice for providers…. Steer clear of telehealth jargon, like ‘virtual care’. Instead, stick to well-known phrases like “online appointments.” The idea is new enough as it is, and talking tech can be baffling and fun. Make it an easy conversation with the patient, so you don’t leave them confused and wary of what is to the many confusing new ideas and techniques.
4. Facilitate questions
Including the mention of telehealth in the conversation is one thing, but then you need to encourage your patients to ask questions, so you and your staff need to have ready answers. Providers are also placing items in their rooms, inviting their patients to communicate with their staff about telehealth. When patients have the opportunity to ask about telehealth, especially from a trusted service provider, they will feel more comfortable about it. Ensure that the telehealth solution you choose, can provide some type of information sharing or training for employees.
5. Practical Explanation – Show and Tell
Love the idea of showing your solution with your employees (and even patients). This practice appears to be involved. You can make a mock consultation with a front desk assistant and show how easy and efficient the consultation is. You can show them that it works. There is no one better than you, and the more you practice, the more confident you become too.
6. Telehealth trade tools
I’ve seen a telehealth initiative fail because patients thought they needed a desktop computer, or a top-notch smartphone to access the solution. Reassure your patient that they will likely have all the tools they need and that they will likely not require any expenses from them. Make sure your patients know what they need and that it may not require additional expenses on their part. Chances are, they already have everything they need. There is often a perception that this is complicated and requires additional equipment. Showing how easy this is will set the record straight.
In answering the question of why one practice has a thriving telehealth initiative, and another does not, the intervention and involvement of the provider plays a huge role in the success. Installing a new solution, sitting back and waiting to see what happens, is doomed to fail. Like any good idea, you have to tell people about it. The secret is to put yourself in the shoes of the sick. When you’re analyzing a new solution, think about it from their point of view. Once you instill patient confidence in your telehealth solution, you’ll wonder what you would have done without it.