Columbus, Ohio—In Gartner’s Hype Cycle terms (see graph below), Telehealth has journeyed over the peak of inflated expectations, through the trough of disillusionment, and is now heading up the slope of enlightenment toward the plateau of productivity1. All that to say: it’s getting real. While millions have already experienced virtual doctors’ visits or telemonitoring firsthand, it’s set to reach the masses.
Analysts predict the global telehealth market will be more than $27 billion by 2016, tripling in growth since 2010.2 On the demand side, Towers Watson’s 2014 survey of large employers found that 37% of employers planned to offer telemedicine to workers as a lower-cost site of care in 2015 and 34% more employers were considering telemedicine in 2016 or 20173. Legal barriers are coming down as well and even the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) are adding 7 new reimbursement codes for telehealth in 2015.
Like channels of care that have emerged in the past (urgent care, in-store clinics), this will be a new touchpoint in communication planning for healthcare marketers; another place to engage with HCPs and patients – not just “in” the (virtual) office, but surrounding their visit, and in a connected effort with other touchpoints before and after the visit.
Many urgent care systems and primary care practices are integrating telehealth into their offerings, which brings to mind the challenge that retailers faced 15 years ago of blending brick & mortar with online storefronts. Each touchpoint has to be considered as a destination on an direct path, but also as a connected part of a larger map of experiences. Who better than healthcare marketers to help our brands with these new challenges?
- [Gartner] http://www.ahier.net/2014/03/the-health-data-analytics-hype-cycle.html