Telehealth is changing the healthcare landscape
Have you been hearing more buzz around the concept of telehealth lately? Are you wondering whether it could be a viable service provision model for your health service?
My name is Karen Finnin. I am a Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, and I have been running an entirely online Physiotherapy practice for the last 6 years.
The telehealth landscape has changed a lot over that time, and it is no longer enough to simply log in to Skype and chat to a patient.
If you are considering telehealth consultations for your health business, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Although your mind may immediately jump to logistics like gadgets and technology platforms, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself first.
Failure to do so could result in an ineffective service with poor uptake, costing you time, money and effort.
Get the formula right, however, and telehealth consultations could reward you and your colleagues with a new level of freedom and flexibility.
The benefit that trumps this, however, is that of being able to offer a service that can reach and help far more people than ever before.
In this article i’m going to share how you can embrace telehealth as part of the changing landscape of healthcare.
What problem are you solving with telehealth?
Introducing technology and removing the face-to-face component of a consultation is challenging for your patient.
Patients will be highly motivated to make it work, however, if you are solving a pressing problem that they face.
So, what problem will you be solving with your telehealth service?
- Will telehealth allow you to reach a geographical area that has previously been under serviced?
- Will you be able to offer a specialised skill set to people who do not live in the radius of your clinic?
- Are you the authority on a particular sport, and telehealth means that lovers of that sport across the globe can access the knowledge of someone who ‘gets it’?
Your desire to work from home or on a banana lounge is not adequate justification for a telehealth service.
Be clear on the problem that your telehealth service will solve for your patients.
What is your telehealth niche and who is your target audience?
The telehealth market is already getting very crowded, and a key way to ‘cut through’ and get found is by being crystal clear on your niche and target audience.
The best way to work this out is to imagine that a service solving a similar problem to yours hits the market.
What will make you different to them?
For example, your service may be solving access issues for people in remote Australia, but who within this population are you targeting?
- Older people?
- Dairy Farmers?
- Adolescent footy players?
- New Mums?
Your niche and target audience will guide your branding, marketing and content creation.
Will telehealth work for your target audience?
So, you are solving a great problem, and have a well-defined niche and target audience.
The next step is to ensure that the logisitics of teleconsultations will work for this population.
- Are they able to access to decent internet?
- Can they access appropriate gadgets? (eg laptop, smartphone)
- Do they have the technical skills required to participate in telehealth?
Can they afford to pay for the telehealth consultation?
If you are planning to operate a fee paying telehealth service, can your target audience afford to pay?
Rebates are not always available for online consultations, so be aware that your patients may have to be full fee paying.
Will your telehealth be competing with your face-to-face service?
If you have a face-to-face practice, will your telehealth service be directly competing with it?
If so, revisit your niche, target audience and the problem you will be solving.
Where patients have the option between attending face-to-face care or telehealth, the uptake of the telehealth option may be poor.
Until you find a compelling reason that makes people highly motivated to utilise telehealth, your niche may need more work.
Who will do the telehealth consultations? Where?
Who is going to carry out your online consultations? You? Your professional staff? Where will you, or they, expect to be located?
A big part of the reason that I pushed through all of the technical and clinical challenges of online consultations in the early stages, was my motivation to:
a) reach more patients, but also
b) so that I could have location independence in my health career.
If you are expecting your professional staff to perform online consultations in their gaps between patients in the clinic, their frustration level may be high and therefore their motivation level low.
While they are stuck in the clinic anyway, face-to-face patients will be easier for them.
When you or your team are motivated to make online consultations work due to the real and practical benefits of freedom and flexibility, they are more likely to be successful.
How will your telehealth be marketed?
Although this point is listed last, it is actually the most important.
Nothing can derail a telehealth practice quicker than a lack of patients.
Patients will only appear if they know about your service.
Patients will only know about your service if your marketing game is on point.
Having a website is not enough.
Paying for ads is unlikely to be enough either.
With so many competing health services starting to offer online services, the only way to build true trust and respect in your target audience is through creating genuine and helpful content.
With a physical health practice, your main competitors are the few other health practices in your geographical area.
Once you go online, you are potentially competing with every online health service in the world.
In short, your reach is far greater, but so is your competition. It is your marketing that will help you to stand out.
If you are investigating whether online consultations may work for you, this list of questions will help you to get started.
If you wish to find out more about telehealth there are some great resources here.
I also had a great time being interviewed by Jack O’Brien for the Grow My Clinic podcast.
He asked me about how i got started, as well as the challenges i have faced. You can listen to that episode here.
Until next time;
Live with Passion and Serve with Care.