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The Best Opportunities for Marketers Within Telehealth

By Mark Kestner, MD, Chief Innovation Officer, MediGuru
Twitter: @Medigurullc

In April 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, the use of telehealth surged with 32% of office and outpatient visits occurring via telehealth. That means telehealth was being used 78x more frequently than it was in February 2020, according to a report from McKinsey & Company. Since then, telehealth usage across specialties has largely stabilized to around 13% to 17%, which is still 38x higher than pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, this uptake in telehealth has also led to increased investment in the areas of virtual care and digital health. In that same McKinsey & Company report, they found that the level of venture capitalist digital health investment was 3x higher in 2020 than 2017.

Even as patients are returning to their doctor’s office, it is likely telehealth and other digital health options will remain in some capacity in a post-pandemic world. So, with more doctor-patient interactions occurring over digital or virtual platforms, what does this mean for point-of-care marketers? To help guide you through this transition, PM360 asked 10 experts within life sciences companies, agencies, suppliers/vendors, and telehealth providers:

  • What are life sciences marketers’ biggest opportunities within the space of telehealth, telemedicine, EMR/EHR, remote monitoring, and other virtual care solutions? How can marketers deliver information within these channels for patients and HCPs as they wait to be connected or at the time healthcare decisions are being made?
  • What opportunities exist for life sciences companies to partner directly with telehealth/telemedicine platforms?
  • How can life sciences companies help HCPs and patients improve their ability to utilize telehealth/telemedicine and get the most out of their virtual interactions? What barriers to telehealth/telemedicine use are life sciences companies best able to help patients and/or HCPs overcome?
  • What common missteps have life sciences companies made within telehealth/telemedicine as the use of these platforms surged during the pandemic?
  • What is the future of telehealth/telemedicine post pandemic? How may companies look to adjust their strategy in this space as it evolves?

If we want to continue to leverage telehealth within the healthcare industry post-pandemic, several factors must be addressed. First, we need to value relationship-based healthcare and not the historical transactional healthcare that has evolved. This requires focusing on a model that keeps the population healthy and out of the hospital, while the relationship between the primary care physician and the patient would be the primary focus. An outpatient team could manage patient care with the primary care physician used for their expertise, and the team of occupational therapists, physical therapists, dietary, nursing, etc., leveraging their expertise in keeping the patient healthy.

Telemedicine solutions would be added to keep patient visits to only what would necessitate a physical presence. Meaningful data and personal information could be monitored from a distance, thus making the delivery a continuous process. Second, the financial model has to change. The value of the physician team and a patient relationship will need to migrate from a Relative Value Unit (RVU) transactional encounter to keep the patient healthy. To achieve this, we must implement population health.

Changing Healthcare to Accommodate Telehealth

This requires understanding the wellness of the population and capitating the payment. Care delivery would no longer be illness intervention but wellness maintenance. Innovative concepts of virtual care and team care would be reinforced naturally by this model. Finally, medical education will need to strengthen the new model of care. The silos between disciplines should be addressed to leverage everyone on the team. Efficient use of technologies such as telemedicine will also need to be taught, and the quality and appropriateness of the encounter will need to be defined. To be appropriately leveraged post-pandemic, the model of care delivery and patient population outcomes must be the drivers of success.