By: John Lavey | Hammock President/COO

One of the most radical changes to the healthcare system that have transpired since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and will surely continue, has been the rapid shift to virtual health.

Prior to COVID-19, virtual care and telemedicine weren’t widely used. According to the American Medical Association, only 28% of doctors reported using telemedicine in 2019. A consumer study conducted in November 2019 found that only 12% of U.S. adults had ever used a telemedicine app, and about 14% of U.S. adults reported that they had never heard of telemedicine apps or websites. Despite that, about two-thirds reported that they were comfortable with the idea of virtual care, saying that convenience and costs were major factors in doing so.

When states implemented shelter-in-place and safer-at-home orders and in-person doctor appointments were limited, virtual care usage skyrocketed. Estimates in The Lancet were that virtual health visits increased tenfold.

One factor for increased adoption was that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily expanded coverage for telehealth visits, and earlier this week, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said she “can’t imagine going back.

The dawning of a virtual health age is here, so what does that mean for healthcare marketers?

  1. Human centered—It means that providers of care and insurers will be required to deliver a human-centered experience that provides healthcare in ways that are convenient and efficient (and protecting patient information) just like every other industry has been doing for 20 years or so.
  2. Mobile driven—Mobile devices are integrated into how we navigate the world as a consumer. They should be integrated more fluidly into how we navigate healthcare, as well. Portals are available to most patients, but about 1 in 4 patients use them. Apps are going to be a part of how we experience healthcare.
  3. Durable relationship—I love the way the Advisory Board frames this idea. Patients want to be treated holistically when it comes to their healthcare—and they want their providers and healthcare system to anticipate and support both clinical and nonclinical needs.

(Image: Getty Images)

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