What Hospital Marketers Should Know About Telemedicine

A consumer survey on the adoption of digital health services sheds light on opportunities for hospital marketers.

Rock Health recently released results from their fourth national consumer survey on digital health services adoption. Using responses from 4,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, the longitudinal data set offers insights into how consumers use and feel about trends like wearables, live-video conferencing and data-sharing.

As healthcare marketers, staying on top of and understanding consumer sentiment is critical to guiding our clients and producing creative that speaks to its target. Here’s a look at some of the survey’s most important findings, plus thoughts on what they mean for healthcare and hospital marketers.

  1. Tracking steps is down; managing diagnoses is up. In 2018, respondents were more likely (30 percent) to report using a wearable to manage a diagnosis than in 2017 (20 percent). This has important implications for healthcare providers, who can work with their wearable-using patients to optimize their treatment plans.
    1. Meanwhile, tracking steps declined from 54 percent in 2017 to 44 percent last year, and 39 percent of wearables users stopped using their device altogether.
    2. However, even after a decline from last year, “be physically active,” still tops the list of reasons for using a wearable, followed by fitness training (43 percent), weight loss (37 percent), achieving better sleep (31 percent) and managing a diagnosis (30 percent).
  2. Telemedicine popularity continues to rise. Seventy-five percent of respondents reported using at least one form of telemedicine (phone, email, live video, text, or picture/video sent) to consult with a healthcare provider remotely.
    1. Rates of live-video conferencing are up, at 34 percent. The increase in adoption rates followed passage of the Chronic Care Act in February 2018, which extends telemedicine coverage to Medicare Advantage patients.
    2. However, urban consumers were more than twice as likely to use live-video conferencing than rural consumers. This means that the patients who could benefit the most from telemedicine — those that live the farthest from accessible healthcare — aren’t using it as often as their city-dwelling peers.
  3. Consumers are less willing to share data than they were before.
    1. 72 percent of respondents reported willingness to share their data with their physician; only 49 percent felt comfortable sharing with their health insurance company.
    2. Public impression of data security may have been impacted by scandals at Cambridge Analytica and other tech companies.

What This Means for Healthcare Marketers

  • There’s an untapped market for live-video conferencing. The results of this study suggest that rural customers, who often live the farthest from top-notch care, are not taking advantage of it. Hospital marketers can help close that gap — and would be wise to keep in mind that campaigns featuring and aimed at web-savvy millennials might not speak to older demographics.
  • Consider incenting wearables use. Health data from wearables is a potential treasure trove, as behavioral data is often more reliable than self-reported data. Accurate, consistent data would benefit doctors and patients alike as they create treatment plans. Marketers can work with hospital clients to come up with programs to encourage patients to use wearables.
  • Telemedicine isn’t going away. Accordingly, marketers should work with hospitals and health systems to let patients — and potential patients — know how wearables and other digital mediums will be leveraged to improve their care. Having the tools to manage one’s own health is powerful; educating patients to effectively manage their conditions with the help of wearables could have empowering results.
  • Data privacy is top-of-mind for consumers. Marketers will need to work with hospital clients to emphasize data security, or risk losing customers who won’t buy in.

Telemedicine is no longer a nascent trend; it’s a mainstay of the healthcare landscape, one that consumers are increasingly expecting. Marketers who dive deep into its nuances and stay on top of consumer preferences will be armed with insights to share with hospitals looking to drive volume and gain loyalty.

Kathy Selker
I’m Kathy Selker. My work as CEO of Northlich, a Cincinnati-based healthcare marketing agency, has taught me a great deal about how hospitals and health systems can best connect with women to make the most positive impact in their lives.
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