Market your telehealth program with precision using these 5 consumer profiles

There are many reasons healthcare consumers are increasingly turning to telehealth, including convenience and cost, however, it is important to note that different age groups are drawn in by different benefits of the virtual service.

This is a point that Mary Modahl, American Well's chief marketing officer, stressed during an Aug. 29 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by American Well. Ms. Modahl said healthcare industry stakeholders offering telehealth services need to keep consumer trends in mind, as not all consumers are prompted to use telehealth for the same reasons.

The generation gap
An American Well survey conducted in collaboration with Harris Interactive polled 2,000 U.S. consumers in 2019. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they are willing to use telemedicine services. These respondents named convenience, faster service, cost savings and better access to professionals as top drivers of that willingness. But, while convenience was a top reason for using telehealth among the 45 to 54 age group, faster service was the top reason for the 65-plus age group and cost savings was the top reason for the 35 to 44 age group.

"It's interesting to us that [the 65 and older] age demographic, which is largely retired and at least in theory has more time at their disposal still finds it hard to get in to see doctors," Ms. Modahl said. "And some of that may have to do with how many doctors treat people in their age group and the doctors that they are seeing may be, in fact, overtaxed."

On the other hand, it makes sense that the 45 to 54 age group prioritizes convenience, as this is the age group that often has both children and aging parents, she said. For the 18 to 34 age group, cost takes precedence, as this generation carries exceptionally high levels of debt, especially debt related to student loans.

When compared with the results from American Well's 2017 survey, the number of consumers who said they'd be willing to switch primary care providers for access to telehealth services increased from 50 million in 2017 to 64 million in 2018.

"We think this is probably one of the most significant findings in the study," Ms. Modahl said. "It does suggest that for health plans, health systems and even individual provider practices, it's going to become increasingly important to have telemedicine as one of the treatment care options available to patients."

Willingness to use versus actual use of telehealth
While 66 percent of consumers are willing to use telehealth, only 8 percent actually do.

Why does this gap exist?

One of the main reasons is a lack of consumer awareness. Many consumers do not know that their hospital or physician practice offers telehealth services.

Ms. Modahl noted the importance of a comprehensive marketing campaign for telehealth programs. Health systems can use several different strategies, such as featuring the program prominently on their website, using email and direct mail marketing, and promoting telehealth in their clinics and hospitals

Another reason the gap between willingness and use exists is because going to the emergency room in-person is still top of mind for most consumers when they have a health issue in the evening, said Ms. Modahl. The 2019 American Well survey shows that 52 percent of consumers say they would go to the ER if they, their child or a loved one needed medical assistance at night. Only 18 percent said they would have a virtual care visit.

One way to combat this instinct is to educate patients about when they should use telehealth versus when they really need to go to the ER.

Give the people what they want
Aside from promoting telehealth programs, health systems, health plans and providers must try and tailor their programs and messaging to suit different generational demographics.

Based on the 2019 American Well survey, Ms. Modahl laid out the following telehealth consumer profiles based on age group:

• Millennials (ages 18 to 34 years) tend to be cost conscious and display more interest in using telehealth for mental healthcare services than other age groups.
• Xennials (ages 35 to 44 years) will use telehealth for the convenience factor and will benefit from education about telehealth insurance benefits as they are concerned about coverage.
• Generation X (ages 45 to 54 years) is increasing medication use and will value convenient refills as a key telehealth benefit.
• Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 64 years) are unwilling to switch primary care providers to access telehealth so in-clinic communication from providers and health systems that offer telehealth may be effective.
• Baby Boomers and Silent Generation (ages over 65 years) are least experienced with telehealth, but they are surprisingly comfortable with technology, and a majority would prefer a video visit for prescription renewals.

Thus, to set their telehealth programs apart, industry stakeholders, such as health systems, health plans and providers, must tailor their programs to consumers needs and preferences and market them according to different age groups.

For more information on American Well, click here.






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