Since the pandemic began in March, almost all of the daily habits and behaviors that we have been building over years and years of our lives have changed. Where you once would experience a face to face interaction, we have learned to expect a digital facsimile. One of the areas where this shift has been the most profound is the healthcare industry, as patients grapple with how to interact with their doctors and make sure their healthcare needs are being met. To get a better understanding of how the industry at the center of the pandemic has been impacted by digital transformation we surveyed 500 healthcare professionals about what they were seeing. 

The Impact of Telehealth on Patient Care 

The goal of our survey was to better understand the extent to which healthcare industries have switched to digital solutions, the barriers they’ve faced and their plans for expanding digital healthcare in the future. After analyzing the responses from our survey, it became clear that healthcare professionals view the switch to telehealth as largely positive, with 57% saying that telehealth has had a positive impact on patient care.  Healthcare professionals were also more likely to view telehealth as having a positive impact, the more patients they were seeing through this method.  The only group where positive impact wasn’t the most common answer, was among those only treating 20% of their patients through telehealth.   

Question #1

Telehealth Changes Are Here to Stay 

Wondering how many of the digital telehealth changes will remain in the new normal? The most popular answer from our executives was that 40-60% of the digital changes will stay. It is likely that solutions used for more routine visits will continue to take place using telehealth, while more complex visits will take place in-person. As telehealth becomes ingrained in our normal habits and behaviors, healthcare organizations will need to invest more in infrastructure to accommodate this shift in consumer preference. Most organizations have already invested in some form of technology upgrade as a result of the pandemic, with 55% creating a new portal or microsite. The majority of healthcare organizations have a long way to go in terms of their technology infrastructure, with 60% of organizations reporting either being not prepared or only somewhat prepared for the pandemic. 

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As healthcare executives look to the future, making sure they have the infrastructure to support a robust telehealth platform is going to be crucial. 63% of healthcare executives say telehealth initiatives are important or very important to their organizations. While this response may look circumstantial, our survey data points to this investment being tied to a more permanent shift. Among companies who said they were very technologically prepared for the pandemic, 93% still think telehealth initiatives are very important. It is clear healthcare organizations aren’t just upgrading their technology to adjust to the current circumstances and instead are looking towards a more digitally driven future state.

UX is the Key to Telehealth’s Success 

Now that we know telehealth is likely here to stay, how can healthcare executives ensure it is successful? Based on our survey results it is clear that the key to telehealth’s success lies in providing a seamless user experience. When asked what the biggest barrier to telehealth’s success, the #1 answer was the patient’s ability to use new technology - outranking both cost and regulations. Telehealth is already improving patient care, imagine what it could do if every patient was able to use it easily?

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A seamless user experience will not only be key for improving patient health, it will also be essential for boosting patient satisfaction. 76% of healthcare executives think a good digital experience is important or very important for overall patient satisfaction. It is important patients are getting this same quality user experience when accessing telehealth through mobile. As many of healthcare’s most frequent users tend to be older, mobile may not be top of mind as a priority. However, at Boston Digital, we know that mobile usage crosses all age groups. As healthcare executives look to the future, they too are prioritizing mobile with 72% indicating that having a mobile-friendly website is important or very important.  

Digital Marketing Investments to Increase 

The pandemic has not only required healthcare executives to find a digital alternative for treating patients, they also need digital solutions to communicate any changes in policy and procedure to their patients. We asked healthcare companies how they were communicating new policies to patients and the top three answers were what you would expect - website, email and phone.  However, they also use more contemporary digital solutions to supplement their traditional methods, with 49% using social media and 35% using video. It is necessary for healthcare companies to invest in a digital presence as more of today’s consumers partake in their daily life online. 89% of healthcare executives say they will invest in some form of digital marketing next year, with 50% planning to invest in social media and 45% planning to invest email marketing. 

Overall the survey data indicates that the habits and preferences that formed around telehealth during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic are, in large part, here to stay. The implications for healthcare providers are significant as they look at business plans and marketing budgets for the year ahead. As we see healthcare organizations transition to a more digital existence, it is clear that those with a first-class user experience for web and mobile, and a comprehensive digital marketing communications strategy, will be the most successful. 

Find the full results of our survey here. Our survey results have also received press coverage in several healthcare and marketing outlets. Take a look at the articles covering these important results:

Telehealth Survey Report