If necessity breeds innovation, then crisis accelerates transformation. The global pandemic has spurred telehealth expansion and massive adoption, providing an incredible opportunity for the healthcare ecosystem to enhance communication with patients.
Despite the pace of activation, however, shockingly few Americans are aware of their access to this now-critical tool. A recent consumer intelligence survey from G&S reveals that as many as 82% of Americans do not think telehealth services are available to them. With the high risk of traveling to a physical location or skipping an appointment entirely, communicating virtual healthcare options should be a priority to providers and payers alike. Moreover, with 42% of Americans reporting they would use telehealth for a service like counseling only if insurance covered enough of the cost, it’s clear that barriers to adoption lie in payment and education – and that payers are uniquely positioned to take the lead in communicating telehealth options to their members.
With the inherent complexities of our health insurance ecosystem, it is incumbent upon payers to communicate consistently and effectively with their members to ensure they understand the services available to them and to encourage telehealth usage during this critical time. It’s also an opportunity to communicate with their other constituents and strengthen their network of employers, providers and members.
Here’s how to tailor your messages to each audience.
Communicating Telehealth Services to Members
- Make it seamless. When you’re encouraging your members to try something new, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to opt in, with no more than a few clicks and little to no setup process involved. Few consumers are willing to install new software, check their coverage options or switch among devices to set up a new system. Options like Zoom or FaceTime, which require no download to accept a video call, encourage adoption with little investment of time, effort or system compatibility.
- Make it intuitive. Tailor your communications appropriately to each audience. Pay attention to how your members typically engage with your communications and customize your messaging to their preferences. For instance, audiences that tend to engage in a desktop environment may prefer an email with a step-by-step setup guide to the new technology. Alternatively, an audience of digital natives may prefer an app experience or other messaging optimized for the mobile environment.
- Make it accessible. Particularly in a crisis situation, with strained resources and long queues in call centers, it’s important to offer your members resources to find what they need. Make it clear what’s covered and what’s not. Technology is another great enabler of this. For instance, our past client, AI-powered healthtech app Pager, combines chat bots with human touch-points to determine the best access points for care, whether an ER, urgent care center or telehealth provider, connecting patients to the care they need within just a few minutes. Options like this can help patients take control over their own healthcare and reduce the burden on the physical system during times of crisis.
Communicating Telehealth Services to Employers
- Offer reassurance, resources and solutions. Employers are navigating an array of other workforce and business challenges. Knowing that their employees will continue to receive reliable coverage and that the plan covers telehealth options not only helps them get the message to their workforce faster – it also cements your value as a trusted partner.
- Offer connection. Now is the time for human connection. Encourage your representatives to reach out to their employer HR counterparts to ensure they have the information and resources they need to address employee questions and concerns.
Collaborating with Providers
- Solve, don’t sell. Chief Growth Officer Steve Halsey reminds businesses that now is the time to solve, not sell. Work together with providers to co-create solutions that help their practices navigate the crisis. Enabling them to see patients during this time will help providers achieve continuity of care while also maintaining close patient-physician relationships. Telehealth also offers long-term value, from broadening the areas they serve to consulting with specialists at other practices.
G&S Account Supervisor Jessica Dillard reminds us that the challenges facing the healthcare community extend beyond the coronavirus, sharing her personal experience with a pre-existing condition. As millions of patients postpone surgeries, appointments and other non-emergency procedures, healthcare leaders have a responsibility to provide a continuum of care. Telehealth provides an opportunity and solution to achieve this goal.
To help mitigate business communications risk, G&S has developed a COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Force. Check www.gscommunications.com/coronavirus regularly for insights and counsel. For immediate one-on-one support, please email us at COVID19@gscommunications.com.