Virtual health, or virtual healthcare, is a hot sector of healthcare—it is expected to reach $3.5 billion by 2022. In today’s post, we’re providing you with the basics of virtual health including:
- What marketing and behavior modification strategies you can begin implementing as a virtual health vendor with both healthcare providers and patients to enact tangible change.
- What current trends are shaping the industry and what you can expect to see next.
What Is Virtual Health?
While this topic is trending, the concept isn’t new. Telemedicine began in 1959 when doctors at the University of Nebraska linked a two-way television connection to transfer information across campus to medical students. About five years later, the University created a telemedicine connection to a state hospital over 100 miles away.
Telemedicine, meaning basic telephone communication between patients and medical staff, was first adopted by the public mostly in rural areas with limited access to premium facilities and technology. Telemedicine is an antiquated term today. Virtual health better describes the sector because it includes video, mobile apps, text messaging, wearable devices, and social media—any technology that delivers care in a way that’s independent of a patient or physician’s physical location.
Virtual Health is the Future of Healthcare
Virtual health has the potential to tremendously increase physicians’ capacity especially at a time where studies project a shortage of 40,000 PCPs over the next decade. This category isn’t just trending; it’s how we should view our future. Some believe that by 2024, virtual consultations will outnumber in-person doctor visits.
The Three Main Categories of Virtual Health
- Telemedicine: Patients consult with their physicians by phone or video.
- Telehealth: This category encompasses remote monitoring via mobile apps that track everything from diet to blood glucose to medication adherence.
- Healthcare provider collaboration: Physicians consult with offsite specialists during critical situations that require immediate guidance such as when to admit, discharge, transfer or treat a patient.
Current Trends in Virtual Health
- Virtual Health spans generations: While millennials are the biggest group to adopt virtual care at record rates, the adoption must and will occur across all ages.
- Blockchain technology plays a major role: Blockchain is expected to play a significant role in virtual care considering the ease that it provides regarding sharing data across multiple platforms in multiple locations, a well-known challenge in healthcare.
- Mental healthcare has the potential to experience the biggest growth: There is a huge opportunity to expand virtual care in mental health for a few reasons.
- We are facing an opioid crisis across the nation, especially in rural areas.
- There’s a shortage of mental health professionals.
- Mental health consultations don’t typically require physical exams.
- Over 70% of mental health patients are willing to receive care virtually.
- Wearables get their day: Back in 2016, Fitbit and Apple Watch’s sales were down, and wearable devices were thought to be a dead market. Today that’s completely turned around, and there’s a big focus on wearables in virtual care including monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. There’s even an indigestible pill that can track a patient’s drug adherence. The capsule contains a sensor that interacts with a patch on the patient that reports information back to a mobile app.
Marketing Opportunities in Virtual Health
As we mentioned earlier, the virtual healthcare market is expected to reach over $3.5 billion by 2022 with a compound annual growth rate of 49.8% over that period. That’s huge growth.
Virtual Doctor’s Visits Can Reduce Costs and Save Time
Accenture estimates that $7 billion worth of PCPs’ time annually could be saved if patients shifted annual exams out of the doctor’s office and into their homes. Patients could participate in electronic visits for aftercare and question-and-answer follow-ups. Chronic disease management is another area where there could be significant savings. Care for chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes doesn’t necessarily require a doctor’s visit and could be done virtually saving the patient and physician time.
Modifying Behavior is Key to Virtual Health’s Success
From a marketing perspective, we want to drive ingrained behavior modification which doesn’t come easily. The key will be an effective combination of educating patients and physicians. We need to increase their comfort with the integration of virtual health and ultimately prove that care is not going to suffer.
Tips for Educating Physicians and Patients on Virtual Health
Physician marketing should focus on the advantages of virtual health: increased patient volume, decreased facility costs, and potentially increased physician quality of life. We should also educate doctors on the high level of patient interest.
Patient marketing should involve promoting the benefits of virtual health. However, the primary focus should be to educate patients on the fact that their care won’t suffer. They are going to receive the same quality of care or better, and it will be more convenient. We also have an opportunity to educate the public on the enormous savings across the entire healthcare continuum. Even if an individual has an amazing healthcare plan, virtual care can potentially save billions of dollars across the board—something that benefits us all.
Virtual Health Marketing Tactics
On the vendor side, marketing tactics are straightforward. Vendors should create volumes of educational content to increase awareness and education among physicians and healthcare systems similar to any B2B or high-tech marketing campaign.
On the patient side, providers should have a dedicated website that educates patients on virtual care. It should present a lot of data on the quality of care—evidence and proof that care doesn’t suffer. It should detail innovations that make healthcare management more convenient and perhaps even more enjoyable. You can Include physician videos, patient testimonials, and demonstrations on the cooler components such as wearable devices.
Virtual health is an amazing sector of healthcare on the verge of enormous growth. Remember, this is not an alternative way to view care; it is the integration of in-person and virtual care that is the future of healthcare.