Before you say online consults aren’t for you, ask yourself, ‘Why did I become a healthcare professional?’ Personally, I became a physiotherapist to help people get out of pain and live the life they want. When I thought of online consults through this filter, the conclusion was clear: I need to do this, and I need to do it well!
Imagine a world where you could access amazing healthcare professionals from the comfort of your living room—especially if you lived rurally where these types of services weren't accessible? What if you had a disability that prevented you from easily travelling independently to see your healthcare provider, but you could work with them from wherever you are in the world?
This is the freedom that telehealth brings to the communities we serve—and beyond.
Accessing essential health services—especially during a crisis—is not always convenient or safe for patients. That’s why incorporating online consultations as a viable aspect of your service can make all the difference for those who need your help the most. It’s essential for your business, and it’s the ethical thing to do.
Online consults can give people clarity around their condition, along with reassurance, education, home treatment, an exercise program, and a plan to get back to what they love doing. And with a huge demand in today’s society for convenience and online services, this may well be the next evolution of healthcare.
What’s the opportunity here?
Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit. Telehealth is a game-changer for the healthcare sector itself. For employers, you’re no longer limited by the amount of space in your clinic. You now have the ability to grow your team and help more people without the need for extra space. Plus, employees now have the opportunity to enjoy flexible arrangements like working from home one or two days a week. These types of incentives are a hot commodity in the job market right now and are sure to attract the most qualified additions for your team
So, what do we stand to gain from moving our services online?
As manual therapists, if we can’t use our hands, every other aspect of our work must improve drastically. And, in time, I’m confident that it will. Our ability to connect with patients through communication—our motivational interviewing, empathy, and listening skills—will become incredible tools for good. We’ll evolve into better problem solvers and discover new ways to create unique home programs for every client. Our explanations and education will be the cornerstone of our treatment sessions and will leave people empowered to become the best versions of themselves.
I’m genuinely excited for what the future holds.
What’s the barrier?
The biggest roadblock I see is the sceptical mindset of some healthcare professionals and the general public. But, in the end, therapists who are closed-minded and refuse to adapt will likely be left behind—like Blockbuster after Netflix entered the market.
This is the next evolution of healthcare, whether we like it or not. If we don’t give it the value it deserves, neither will our patients.
Exceptional client experiences create lasting value
So how do we start creating this amazing online experience? I’ll break it down into six main areas:
- Marketing: internal and external
- Landing page and information page
- Communication for client nurturing
- Environment set up
- Digital platform
- Communication on the virtual consult
Marketing online consults
First, let’s talk about marketing to our current clients. This is always the best—and simplest—form of marketing, because these people already trust us with their health and are most willing to listen to our new ideas. When possible, we can speak with them in the clinic to prepare them for what an online consultation looks like and how it would benefit them. As their trusted health advisor, this is the preferred way of introducing the telehealth concept. The next best option is a personal phone call from their treating therapist to explain the same concept and give them the information they need. The final option is to use CRM software (like SMS or email) with links to education about the benefits of online consults and what types of people/conditions might benefit the most.
New clients are trickier, though. We have to remember something important: we’re marketing a service that many people don’t yet understand—like trying to sell air travel to people in the 1700’s. It’s tough, but not impossible.
First and foremost, it’s our responsibility to educate them on the potential benefits. My advice is to go hard on adding value through education. Be the clinic that provides more value to people than anyone else. Give out amazing content, exercises, and self-help for free. Position yourself as the expert. Share without the expectation of receiving anything in return. I truly believe this is the best path to success.
Landing page and information page
Your landing page and information page need to be top-notch, and there should be a distinct difference between the two. Your information page should be content-rich, answer all anticipated questions, and ideally have some video content too.
Pay close attention to the intent of this page—information. Don’t treat it like just another sales page, or Google will penalise you. Last year's Google Medic Update, for example, hit health businesses especially hard for this reason. And don’t just copy things other people have written. Google penalises harshly for this—original content is always best.
Your landing page, on the other hand, is your sales pitch. This is the page you should link to from the ads that you’re running because it’s an opportunity to educate people on what your consult, deal, or package is all about—and should have plenty of ‘book now’ buttons! Have some fun with this page and make a few different versions to test which ones get better traction and more conversions. It’s also ideal for this page to not be indexed with Google.
Communication for client nurturing
Communication, communication, communication. Did I mention communication? It’s especially important with telehealth because we are taking people into uncharted territory. Seeing a health professional can be daunting in the best of times. But visiting one online—in a way they never thought realistic—is another kettle of fish entirely.
It’s important to ensure that all communication prior to a patient’s initial consultation instils confidence in you and in the process. This will be a direct reflection of the professionalism you portray. Have a smooth system that gives each person a consistent experience. Be on the front foot by preempting their questions and concerns. Show people that telehealth isn’t just a temporary change, but it’s a viable and useful way of helping them in the long term.
Environment set up
A professional appearance plays a large role in people’s experience with your virtual consultations. If you do it from your couch with your laptop at a poor angle offering a clear view of your nostrils, people won’t go raving to their friends and family about what a great experience they had.
Instead, set up a consult room in your clinic or house with a nice backdrop and enough space for you to demonstrate exercises and movements. Keep your appearance consistent too. Wearing your regular uniform will provide a sense of normalcy and professionalism. Unfortunately, undies and ugg boots just won’t cut it. Finally, consider your audio and lighting. Invest in an external microphone and some form of extra lighting. Most of these items can be purchased at a reasonable cost from a local supplier, and they can make all the difference for your client’s experience.
Make sure you have a secure and legal digital platform to provide your telehealth consultations. Keeping in mind that a great user experience is crucial, it should be easy to learn and navigate.
We use Cliniko's telehealth feature because it’s fully integrated, secure, and provides everything on the one screen. Plus, it’s super easy for our clients too with no software to download—totally seamless!
Communication on the virtual consult
Your ability to build online rapport with patients boils down to getting lots of practice on camera. Most people feel awkward at first—where to look, what to do with your hands, etc.—and it takes time to overcome this. But it’s well worth the effort. Your success with telehealth depends on your ability to ask smart questions, be a world-class listener, and express empathy. With practice, you can nail these aspects every single time. And, when you do, you’ll be well on your way to developing amazing relationships with your clients and delivering exceptional online care.
Telehealth consultations are an incredible opportunity for us to do more good, help more people, and—if we deliver exceptional experiences—a way for us to evolve healthcare for the better.
For more info, take a look at how we’re marketing telehealth for our clinic:
I also have a fantastic e-course available on Clinic Mastery:
- Practice management tips
Karen Finnin is a self-proclaimed accidental entrepreneur, but also a pioneer of the online healthcare movement. We talked to Karen to find out how she went from rural physiotherapist to telehealth pioneer.