Brands and organizations have had to get creative during the COVID-19 pandemic to either keep delivering services or keep their names in front of people.

If your business didn’t have a large digital footprint before the coronavirus hit, it’s likely you have one now or have expanded it mid-pandemic. One big example of this is the recent surge in telehealth, or telemedicine, given the restrictions put on in-person elective and nonurgent medical procedures.

I had written a bit about these virtual health care appointments in my previous life as a newspaper reporter. Behavioral health (specifically, psychiatry) and specialty hospital units (such as intensive care and cardiac care) had been early adopters of this web-based technology as a way to reach more clients and patients, and for closer monitoring of high-risk individuals.

Many insurance companies have expanded access to virtual visits during COVID-19 so people can still access providers for questions about symptoms, diagnosis and possible treatment options.

After helping clients with telehealth messaging the past few weeks, I had my own experience with the service as a patient. I needed a virtual visit with my doctor for a prescription refill, and I called the office on a Monday to ask about the medication and had a virtual visit scheduled a few days later.

Here are a few things I’ve observed from my own brief telehealth experience and from some best practices put into place by our partners.

Help patients troubleshoot.

My recent virtual doctor’s appointment used the Google Duos platform. When I was making the appointment, I asked the nurse if I could use my computer rather than my phone. Her response? She wasn’t sure. I didn’t get instructions sent to me or even a confirmation of my appointment. Luckily, everything worked out the day of, minus some sound issues that required me to ditch the computer for my phone. Hospitals, health systems and independent specialty practices see patients of all ages and technical abilities. Even if you are launching telehealth services during the eye of a storm, make sure your staff have some basic instructions they can share with patients and that you communicate about telehealth as much as possible (at least have any new or updated telehealth details on your website or social media).

Explain why people might need telehealth.

We’re under a shelter-in-place order through the end of April, and people are being told every day to stay home and to avoid nonurgent outings. That’s the beauty of telehealth – people can access your health care services without leaving home. But the thought of even reaching out might conflict for some people with the larger COVID-19 precautions being shared by local, state and federal officials every day. This is the perfect chance to write a blog or a series of social media posts with examples of why someone should reach out (like my medication refill example, regular checkups, or if someone is experiencing certain symptoms or health changes related to your specialty).

Ask for feedback.

If a patient goes out of their way to compliment the telehealth experience, see if that person would mind sharing their story either in an online review or through a patient story. The story could be a few paragraphs on your social media pages or website. This helps spread the word about telehealth but also shows an example of how someone else accessed the services.

Evaluate the long-term use.

Our partners who have recently launched telehealth services have reported some early positive feedback from patients. Virtual visits help patients feel safe reaching out during a crisis and they’ve been a great option for individuals who typically travel far for their in-person appointments. Prepare to do a deeper dive on telehealth post-coronavirus to see how you can improve on and continue using the services. That might mean investing in at a more efficient, user-friendly platform or updating messaging with lessons learned from the interactions with patients during the pandemic.

COVID-19 will change health care delivery moving forward, and the telehealth expansion is a big part of that. Our  health care marketing team can help you communicate with patients during the pandemic and assist with integrating telehealth and other services into your everyday offerings in the future. [/av_textblock]