As marketers, we often compare brands within specific industries and verticals, but in reality most consumers don’t think this way at all. They don’t compartmentalize their individual experiences but rather they aggregate all of their experiences into generalized expectations. Consumers take in all of this information and develop expectations for brand touch points based on their experiences as a whole. A consumer who uses innovative digital tools when they are shopping comes to expect a similar experience in their healthcare, as well.
Telehealth is a key trend in healthcare and directly impacts the patient experience and how they interact with their physician. In fact, Ed Simcox, Healthcare Practice Leader from Logicalis Healthcare Solutions, believes the true tipping point in telehealth is coming within the next four years as “today’s digital natives expect to interact online with service providers – including their physicians – with the same convenience they experience ride-sharing via Uber or booking a vacation room via Airbnb. To remain relevant, healthcare providers must capitalize on these expectations by providing fully integrated telehealth solutions. Those providers that haven’t begun catering to the younger patient demographic using telehealth are already falling behind.”
A survey conducted by American Well found that 60% of physicians are in favor of communicating with patients via video visits.
70% of physicians believe that video is a better tool to communicate with patients than email or phone.
There are many health specialties that are implementing telehealth programs, including radiology, dermatology, and neurology. According to Logicalis Healthcare Solutions experts, there are multiple stages for adapting telehealth solutions and there are four different categories of telehealth services:
- Synchronous: A live, two-way video meeting between patient and physician for consultations, health exams, health education and training, and patient observation – even monitoring patients in an intensive care unit.
- Store and Forward: The sharing of information such as images, clinical results, education and training, and patient portals to be reviewed at a later time. This could be via a device such as a portable ultrasound device, which can send patient scans to a radiologist from another location.
- Remote Monitoring: The collection and sharing of vital signs and health data from chronically ill patients with a HCP in a separate location for care or support. This is extremely beneficial for patients who are ready to be discharged from the hospital but the physician still wants to regularly monitor their vitals.
- Mobile Health/Wellness: The ability for mobile devices to promote healthy behaviors, deliver alerts or reminders, and manage patient cases remotely, including anything from vital signs monitoring to behavioral health assistance or diet and weight loss tips. This is very useful for elderly patients who may need a way to alert caregivers or physicians if they need medical assistance.
Brands are beginning to explore the telehealth trend and how it can be used for their consumers. Walgreens, for example, has developed a partnership with MDLIVE and recently announced they are offering consumers in 25 states 24/7 access to MDLIVE’s telehealth visits via the Walgreens mobile app. MDLIVE provides patients access to a robust network of board-certified doctors, straight from their mobile device. This example of a brand and telehealth provider partnership is offering convenience for patients like never before. The MDLIVE integration into the Walgreens mobile app positions Walgreens as a leader in the digital health space and gives them a strong competitive advantage.
Adam Pellegrini, Walgreens Divisional VP of Digital Health, explained in a statement, “We have seen that telehealth solutions play an important role in helping to improve patient outcomes, and we will continue to work to evolve our offerings to ensure our patients can choose what’s most convenient for them, whether that’s live doctor consultations, digitally chatting with a pharmacist, or visiting a Healthcare Clinic.”
Walgreens has also launched their Walgreens Connect app, which provides additional benefits for Walgreens Balance Rewards members. Members who own a Well at Walgreens connected glucose meter or blood pressure wrist monitor can earn points for taking daily measurements. The app allows members to sync their devices in order to seamlessly sync data and earn rewards. They can gain up to 20 Balance Rewards points a day for blood pressure measurement and 20 points for blood glucose measurements. The Walgreens Balance Rewards program has over 500,000 connected devices, proving that patients are seeing the value of this program. The Walgreens app, as well as the Walgreens Connect app, show the brand’s dedication to providing innovative digital solutions for their consumers, through tapping into trends like telehealth and simplifying processes for patients who deal with chronic conditions and need to monitor their health daily.
Another organization utilizing telehealth to provide better access to healthcare for patients is the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing. They are launching a research project in January that will leverage telehealth robots for elderly patients living in local retirement communities. These robots will conduct physicals and enable patients to communicate with their physicians via two-way video functionality.
After this pilot program, students at the University of Cincinnati will conduct focus groups in order to determine how the elderly patients felt about the telehealth robot program. They also would like to explore whether the patients would be open for future robot programs to help manage chronic diseases like diabetes. While this is just an experimental program, it proves that the telehealth trend is not only being explored for use with the digitally savvy, younger generation of patients, but there are also opportunities for telehealth to transform patient-doctor interactions for people of all ages with various medical conditions.