News | 26 January 2021

Embracing the move to virtual healthcare

Delivering services remotely can drive innovation and efficiency.

Anyone who’s had any sort of health issue in the past few months will know only too well about virtual healthcare or ‘telehealth’ as it’s known in the US. From online booking systems at the GP to video consultations via iPhone, people have had to engage with the technology, with varying degrees of success. Patients with chronic conditions are having to manage their symptoms at home, leaning on digital solutions for care outside the hospital and doctor’s surgery. Forrester predicted that virtual healthcare visits in 2020 would soar to 1 billion in the US and 20 million in the UK.  

Tools that deliver beyond medical settings 

For healthcare providers, the shift to virtual may be accelerating under challenging conditions, but has huge potential for innovation and efficiency. Forward-facing companies are embracing technologies that deliver services beyond medical settings, such as:   

  • Video and apps for end patients. Videos showing how to use products are relatively cheap to create and distribute but very helpful for patients. Apps require more of an investment, but pay off with valuable data. Patients have a safe space to ask questions, keep notes on their condition and log progress. It’s also helps cultivate a proper dialogue with the end consumers, learning more about their needs and requirements. This data can be used to shape future product development and communications. 
  • Digital tools and presentations for sales staff. Compared to printed brochures, these are more customizable, allowing you to create highly targeted communications. User experience can be enhanced with interactive elements, video or moving graphics. You can automise follow up by connecting with your CRM system. And most importantly, digital sales aids  allow you to measure interactions, for much better oversight into what works for your customers.  
  • Optimised websites with ordering functionality. To support the distribution and sales of products, it’s important have a website that allows for paperless communication. Reducing admin for everyone from hospital procurement to your own internal departments is a no-brainer when it’s easier than ever to automate.  
  • Training on product use via video conference. In our work in the medical sector, we often find a barrier to using products is health care professionals not feeling confident using or applying them. Video conferencing allows you to train people in multiple locations at the same time and answer queries in real time.
     

Strategic use of data  

The sharing of health data is a controversial subject, with many people concerned about how and why their details are used. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the benefits of sharing data globally to allow for a data-driven response. Last year the US government imposed new rules make it easier for third-party health apps – authorized by consumers – to connect with hospitals and doctor’s offices.   

For healthcare marketers, there will be access to ever more data – but the question is, what to do with it? Instead of storing data sets for operational reasons, many organisations are focusing on extracting insights that support their goals, such as identifying disease trends or exploring avenues for new products. For healthcare marketers, it’s important that ever to be organised and strategic in the use of data. Make sure all information is gathered in one place, and that everyone who needs to can access it to leverage the most value for your organisation, patients and caregivers. 

Tech for preventative, holistic care 

Looking ahead to a time when the pressures of the pandemic ease, healthcare providers will use digital solutions to support preventative and holistic care. Online and in-person programs will combine to support patients’ general wellbeing, to prevent or reverse diseases. Wearable devices will enable healthcare workers to have real-time information on patient data while they remain at home. Empowered consumers will leverage the power of their lifestyle, combined with research and technology to enable them to take control of their health journey.  

Many healthcare and medical device companies were developed mainly to fix ailments. But this broad shift in focus from providing episodic, acute care to keeping people healthy – from ‘sick care’ to ‘health care’, if you like – will ultimately require fundamental rethinking on brand purpose. Brands will need to connect with the ‘why’ of their existence to find the way ahead, differentiate themselves from their competitors and engage customers.   

But for many companies, moving towards virtual healthcare will be a journey of many small steps, from adopting more video communication to increasing website functionality or arming sales staff with helpful tools. Virtual healthcare is here to stay and will combine with in-person interactions to deliver better care in the future.  

If you’d like to chat about digital solutions to support your healthcare marketing, drop me a line at paul@thisisembrace.com

Author
Paul Wreford-Brown,
Digital Director