Telehealth IRL: Important Offerings and Approaches in the Pipeline

COVID-19 has driven 10 years of innovation and change into a 4-month window. The adoption of new technology has accelerated as people are forced to work from home and adopt their lifestyle to a new norm. When it comes to healthcare, with limitations on in-person patient and physician opportunities, telehealth has specifically seen a significant upturn in its adoption.

Recent Major Wins for Telehealth Adoption

The success of telehealth has not gone unnoticed by Congress with a variety of legislation being introduced. Senators Marsha Blackburn and Ted Cruz introduced The Equal Access to Care Act that would allow providers to use telehealth in any state to treat patients in any locations for up to 180 days after the end of the national emergency. This would make telehealth continue to be accessible and circumvent red tape that previously prevented virtual care from occurring across state lines. This is most likely the first step in continued use and growth of the telehealth space even when the pandemic is over.

Additionally, in a rare act of bi-partisanship, 30 senators co-authored a letter urging Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and minority leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, to support expanding access to telehealth services on a permanent basis so that it remains an option for Medicare beneficiaries both now and after the pandemic, stating:

“Doing so would assure patients that their care will not be interrupted when the pandemic ends. It would also provide certainty to health care providers that the costs to prepare for and use telehealth would be a sound long-term investment.”

Also, Senators Martha McSally, R-Arizona, and Doug Jones, D-Alabama, recently introduced bipartisan legislation to make $50 million available for a Virtual Health Pilot administered to support remote patient monitoring programs in community health centers and rural health clinics during the pandemic. Those funds would be administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, according to the legislation. The Health Innovation Alliance is quoted as saying that this legislation was a “vital step forward to ensuring telehealth can deliver for those who need it the most.”

With all this legislation on the table, it’s likely that Congress will soon tighten back up the HIPPA rules that were eased at the start of the pandemic, preventing doctors from continuing to host their telehealth calls via FaceTime or Zoom. The result will be an increase of HCPs/patients who will be funneled into the ever-growing list of HIPPA compliant partners outlined below.

The Major Players in Telehealth

All of this presents a unique opportunity to engage with patients, caregivers and HCPs in the newest iteration of ‘Point of Care.’ Here are a few of the ways you can leverage advertising on telehealth for your clients:

Populus: Virtual Waiting Room and/or Check-In portal for telehealth networks (launched February 2020)

Populus classifies themselves as a POC media partner.  They have currently secured deals with three health insurance telehealth providers (Zipnosis, iClinq, Firefly) with plans to expand to many others. Currently averaging 150k visits per month, they offer an easy to access website for patients/HCPs to meet without downloading any apps which is beneficial for older patients. Their technology can be embedded within telehealth platforms that allow advertisers to deliver messaging to patients when they are in a ‘virtual waiting room.’ The platform specifically targets patients and can deliver messaging in the form of non-clickable banner ads or videos. Call to action banners can then be delivered when the telehealth call has ended. Currently, the platform allows you to target by a select set of factors such as Reason for Visit, Age, Demo and Location. There are plans to expand targeting capabilities to include condition and symptoms.

CheckedUp: Virtual Waiting Room & During Telehealth Visit (launched June 2020)

CheckedUp, a relatively new POC partner, has expanded into the telehealth space as well. This company was founded by physicians and is the only telehealth partner to offer brands the opportunity to deliver messaging to patients, but also the HCPs during the actual telehealth appointment (not just as a waiting room). Brands can run banner ads or videos in the virtual waiting room and can run banners and/or provide infographics for skins around the actual telehealth video meeting. The ads shown to the HCP can be different than the ads shown to patients during the call. As they just launched in June, their monthly visit estimates are quite low at this time, averaging 2k per month.

The virtual check-in feature will be able to continue to be used now that many HCPs are beginning to see patients back into their physical locations, while helping them achieve their goal of limiting the number of people within the office due to social distancing guidelines. All the check-in and virtual waiting room features would be done as patients wait in their car, before being escorted directly to the exam room. 

Constant Media: Telehealth Appointment (1st campaign launching July 1)

Known as a POC media partner, Constant Media recently partnered with MEND. MEND currently has 7.5k HCPs participating in their platform and have had 1.5MM telehealth appointments YTD.  Ads are served only to the patient during the telehealth appointment. At this time there are no virtual waiting room opportunities before they go in to see the doctor, but the company says they may expand in that space too. Advertising opportunities include pre-roll white page before patient connects to the HCP (videos, banner ads, HTML, PDF). One of the few that offers patients the ability to click through to brand.com while waiting for the HCP to join the call. Targeting is done by specialty.

Outcome Health: Virtual Waiting Room Platform (launch date TBD – Q4 2020/early 2021)

In May of 2020, POC media partner Outcome Health announced the ‘OH Virtual Waiting Room.’ Already a leader in the POC space, Outcome Health has now pushed itself into the telehealth industry. This platform will work with current telehealth providers and provide patients in the ‘waiting room’ with a better overall experience. Instead of seeing a ‘waiting for physician’ image, patients will be served an interactive platform. While the platform currently does not support advertising, it will be rolled out soon as it evolves.

Sharecare: Sophisticated AI Chat Bots (launch date TBD – early 2021)

Sharecare, traditionally a DTC endemic website for pharma companies, has announced that in 2021 they will roll out chat bots that can be sponsored by advertisers. Sharecare chat bots are very sophisticated, and AI-powered to learn from and respond to emotions and tone. These chat bots will provide on demand, personalized concierge of virtual/telemedicine for patients that offer a private 1:1 way to get many of their answers normally gathered through a PCP visit.

Doximity Video Dialer – HCP Social Partner

Doximity recently added a video component to their dialer feature, making telemedicine easier for HCPs using their service. This feature allows physicians to video call with patients without needing any app or software downloads, but in a HIPPA compliant manner. Pre COVID, their dialer utilization was at 1MM calls per month. This has skyrocketed to 1MM calls per day. Unfortunately for our brands, there is no advertising allowed at this time on the video dialer. Advertising opportunities still live outside the telehealth platform on the newsfeed.

An Ongoing (R)Evolution
As shown in the examples above, the telehealth marketplace is rapidly evolving with new partners coming into the space on a regular basis. Most opportunities for advertising occur only on the patient side and all have unsophisticated targeting capabilities at this time. As we continue to see evolution within the telemedicine space,
we will uncover new opportunities to engage patients, caregivers and HCPs.

DTC focused clients whose treatments are for chronic conditions, have younger and/or larger patient populations will be better positioned to take advantage of this space. Continued dialogue between media partners and planning teams will be necessary to ensure that as the offerings evolve and the targeting capabilities improve, our clients will be the first to know.