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What the Rise of the Patient-Consumer Means for the Future of Telemedicine

Posted by Brooke Andrus, Sep 8, 2016

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Back in the olden days — and when I say “olden days,” I mean back before the Internet was as commonplace as indoor plumbing — finding a doctor meant asking for recommendations from friends and family.

Today, recommendations still play a major role in the physician selection process, but the manner in which people seek out the advice of fellow healthcare consumers is drastically different. I mean, who would’ve ever thought there’d come a day when you could compare both medical providers and Thai takeout joints using the same tool?

Yes, the Internet has permeated nearly every aspect of modern American life — especially the consumer marketplace. And that includes the market for health services. Today’s patients — and prospective patients — are better-educated and thus, more empowered than ever before. They have access to an endless stream of information about their diagnoses, treatment options, and potential care providers.

And with the trend toward high-deductible health plans — thanks in part to reform legislation like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — those patients are more motivated to ensure they spend their healthcare dollars wisely.

But what, exactly, are those patient-consumers looking for? What’s on their “buyer’s checklist,” so to speak?

1) They want to get the most bang for their buck.

Savvy shoppers are always on the hunt for deals. In other words, they want the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost. This is the exact philosophy that forms the foundation of the value-based healthcare movement — and it’s the driving force behind the entire healthcare reform effort.

Post-ACA insurance plans have forced patients to put “more skin in the game” — which means they want more than just great results; they want quick results that’ll last long after they’ve been discharged.

2) They want providers who care about them as people — not just as patients.

No one wants to feel like another number on a chart. Internet marketers know this — and that’s why their online marketing strategies have evolved to provide consumers with highly personalized experiences.

Patient-consumers are no different. They crave personal, connected relationships with their healthcare providers — and just as businesses have leveraged the power of the Internet to enhance their connections with buyers, doctors can harness technology to improve the patient experience.

Telehealth platforms have revolutionized the manner in which patients access and communicate with their healthcare providers. With the advent of these innovative tools, doctors have an incredible opportunity to forge patient relationships that extend beyond the four walls of their offices.

This not only makes it easier for doctors and patients to stay on the same page as treatment progresses, but also allows patients to communicate with their doctors outside of the often uncomfortable, intrusive, sterile environment of a medical treatment room. And the more communicative a patient is, the more information the doctor has to inform his or her care decisions.

3) They want convenience.

Nowadays, consumers can barely wait more than a single second for a website to load. So, it should come as no surprise that they’re not too hip on the idea of hanging out in a waiting room for 45 minutes before finally hearing the words, “The doctor will see you now.”

In the era of on-demand everything, convenience is king — and for healthcare providers, that means it won’t be long before telehealth capabilities go from “nice to have” to “can’t live without.” And when it comes to business technology, fortune favors those who stay ahead of the curve.

So, capitalize on the rapidly growing market of tech-loving patient-consumers — and reap the online review and recommendation rewards — before you lose the opportunity to use it as a differentiator.

The Internet has empowered patients to take the reins on their healthcare decisions — including the providers they choose. But, this tech-spawned empowerment is anything but one-sided; in fact, by leveraging telehealth capabilities to better meet the demands of healthcare consumers, medical providers will set themselves up for success in the value-centric — and patient-centered — healthcare system of the future. 

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Brooke Andrus

About Brooke Andrus

Brooke Andrus is a blog contributor for eVisit. A journalist by trade, Brooke has more than three years of experience writing specifically about healthcare reform, technology, and best practices.

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