The new telemedicine regulations in Texas are very exciting! With his signature, Gov. Greg Abbott opened Texas to the future of health care—one where patients can connect with a doctor regardless of the time of day or day of the week. Not to mention the average 12 day wait to schedule a visit with a primary care physician in Texas is out the door as a patient will be able to connect with a local doctor in as little as one minute.
While telemedicine has great potential, depending on which platform you look at, the industry hasn’t lived up to the hype when it comes to utilization—most commercial offerings report between 1-3 percent utilization.
So, you should be asking yourself, “what will make Texans different? How will we get our patients to actually use our virtual care offering?”
The answer falls into three categories:
- Providing patients the technology they’re demanding;
- Removing financial barriers; and
- Making sure patients know they have access to the service.
Giving patients the technology they’re demanding.
When you’re sick, it’s not the best time for patients to learn new technology, so telemedicine offerings must leverage technology that patients are familiar with and use every day—the cell phone in their pocket. Whether they have the latest and greatest smart phone, or are working with an old-school flip phone, text messaging is the most common method of communication for people under age 50.
Doctors and patients prefer to communicate via text. CirrusMD recently heard from a national insurer about a member patient study they’d conducted which found text was the modality highest in demand, followed by email, phone, and video chat.
The order of preferences makes sense, after all, text messaging allows for instant communication with a doctor without needing to find a private room at work, school, or home for the patient to describe what they might see as an embarrassing medical issue.
Removing financial barriers. When patients as consumers have access to all of the information about the value of a healthcare treatment or service, including cost, they will make a decision that is in-line with both their values and their budget.
If given a choice between an in-person visit with a doctor they have a relationship with and a virtual visit with an unknown doctor, both of which have a $40 co-pay, for example, it’s not hard to understand why the patient would opt out of the virtual option.
Instead, health systems and health plans should see telemedicine as a differentiator, rather than a source of additional income.
By offering a telemedicine solution without financial barriers to care, not only will patients use it, but the encounter also presents the health system with the opportunity to build brand loyalty and ensure all referrals are sent to in-network resources.
Do patients know about it? Finally, patients can only take advantage of a telemedicine program if they know it’s an option. Make sure your virtual care program remains top of mind with your community of patients by making the marketing of it a priority with a comprehensive marketing plan driven by best practices selected specifically to drive utilization.