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Boosting Post-Covid Provider Revenue Using Telehealth

patient having a video call with the doctor over the phone

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a far-ranging impact on the healthcare industry, not the least of which is the significant loss of providers’ revenue due to reduced patient traffic and procedures.

For example, Mass General Brigham reported an operating loss of $178 million in the first quarter, and it expects to lose patient service revenue of approximately $400 million a month. “The duration of the projected revenue loss will depend on many factors, including the resumption of elective procedures, the effect of the economic downturn on demand for services and payer mix and the extent of federal and state advances and grants as well as the health care industry’s ability to continue to convince patients that it is safe to return for non-COVID care,” the system said.

Mass General Brigham is not alone. According to a Guidehouse analysis of a survey conducted by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), nearly two-thirds of hospital executives expect the year’s revenues to decline by at least 15% due to COVID-19. Twenty percent of executives expect revenue declines of more than 30%. Moreover, operating margins fell 282% in April compared to year ago, according to Kaufman Hall’s latest “National Hospital Flash Report.”

"April was the worst month ever for hospital finances,” said Jim Blake, managing director, Kaufman Hall in a statement. “Our nation’s hospitals are in a perilous position. They are serving as the frontlines of our battle against this virus, but the pandemic is threatening their fundamental financial viability at a time when we need them most."

Things haven’t been easy for other types of healthcare organizations, either. Experity reported that during the second two weeks of March, average urgent care visit volume dropped 46%. By mid-April, urgent care clinics saw a low of only 88 average visits per week.

Physician practices have seen declines in patient volume of 30% to 70%, according to Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). Primary care practice business is down 40% to 50%.

“Practices should be reasonable about expectations for their volume and how long this downturn is going to last,” she says. “If you’re a primary care practice, this is probably a six- to eight-week period in which you can count on volumes being down 50% to 60%.”

Telehealth – A Silver Lining?

The situation would be even worse for primary care physicians and other healthcare providers if not for telehealth and Medicare’s coverage of virtual visits. “We’ve seen telehealth enthusiastically embraced across the country, to the point where it has become an integral part of care delivery just in the last three weeks,” Fischer-Wright says.

In its Voice of the Industry Weekly Survey fielded May 11-13, 2020, the Urgent Care Association found that 80% of its members now offer telemedicine and average 18.4 visits per center/per day.

However, many small independent practices are finding it challenging to implement telehealth workflows. Moreover, a Physician Foundation’s survey reports that 65% of clinicians have patients who can’t use virtual health (no computer/internet).

How can these providers jump on board with telehealth in an efficient and cost-effective manner, while maximizing its benefits across a diverse patient population?

Digital Health Platform

PatientBond is a Digital Health Platform that offers providers secure virtual/video consults and two-way text messaging, but also remote monitoring, digital care pathways and follow-up, marketing services and patient responsibility payment collections, among many other services involving remote patient engagement.

PatientBond’s virtual consults can be accessed by patients via an app that works both on a phone or computer. PatientBond also offers post-virtual visit follow-up to monitor recovery and provide education to support a provider’s recommendations. Patient engagement is achieved through a mix of email, text/SMS. Interactive Voice Response (IVR), in-app/portal messaging and other channels.

PatientBond employs a wide variety of digital channels, because it recognizes patients have different communication preferences and access to technologies. Unlike other telehealth companies, PatientBond employs a form of consumer science known as psychographic segmentation to personalize its communications according to a patient’s intrinsic motivations.

Psychographic Segmentation

Psychographics pertain to people’s attitudes, beliefs, lifestyles and personalities, and are key to their motivations, priorities and communication preferences. Segmentation involves grouping people according to these shared characteristics for more effective targeting and engagement.

Psychographic segmentation has been used for decades by Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS Health and other world class consumer and retail organizations to grow market share and accelerate the use of products and services like telehealth.

PatientBond developed and operationalized a proprietary psychographic segmentation model that it uses to personalize healthcare consumer engagement according to an individual’s motivations. This model was led by healthcare consumer experts from P&G who also worked with the retailers named above to operationalize their own psychographic models.

PatientBond identified five distinct psychographic segments based on their approaches to health, wellness and healthcare services, each of which requires a unique engagement strategy:

  • Self Achievers: Proactive and wellness-oriented, Self Achievers set personal goals and like the challenge of accomplishing them. They invest in their health and appearance and trust physicians and other healthcare professionals as the most credible sources of information to keep them healthy.
  • Balance Seekers: Also proactive and wellness-oriented, Balance Seekers are independent and seek options and choices in their care, defining success for themselves. They are less likely to view physicians as the most credible source of health information, instead looking for information online and among peers.
  • Priority Jugglers: Reactive with personal health issues, Priority Jugglers will make sure their families and loved ones get the care they need. Busy with many responsibilities, they value sacrificing themselves for others. Duty, commitment and dedication are important values for Priority Jugglers.
  • Direction Takers: Reactive with their health but relatively high utilizers of the healthcare system, Direction Takers look to healthcare professionals for directive guidance. Direction Takers expect physicians to know the answers and don’t like being asked a lot of questions. However, they are not Direction Followers – they might not follow physician recommendations if they can’t be easily incorporated into their daily routine.
  • Willful Endurers: The most reactive – and often disengaged – when it comes to health and wellness, Willful Endurers live in “the here and now.” They do not like waiting and want immediate gratification. They are not necessarily unhealthy, but they do not generally take preventative health measures.

PatientBond studied healthcare consumers’ use of telehealth and other technologies and found significant differences among the psychographic segments. Two segments – Self Achievers and Willful Endurers – represented 70% of all telehealth use over the last 12 months. Working with a major managed Medicaid Insurer to drive telehealth registration and utilization during the COVID-19 crisis, the same two segments were responsible for more than 80% of all participation.

This would indicate that success with telehealth rests on identifying and effectively engaging two of the five segments in a population. PatientBond can help its clients (hospitals, health systems, physician practices, urgent care centers, etc.) target patients and maximize the likelihood of telehealth utilization. In addition to capturing telehealth use and market share among the top two segments, PatientBond can also motivate an increase in telehealth use among the remaining three segments.

Importantly, PatientBond can be set up and active in under two weeks at relatively low cost and a very high ROI.

While revenues for many healthcare organizations may take a while to recover to pre-COVID levels, telehealth and digital patient engagement services can help bridge patients back into the office and provide alternative revenue streams. Telehealth is here to stay but operationalizing it in a way that maximizes revenue and market share as quickly as possible is critical to the financial health of a practice.

For a quick, step-by-step guide to building market share post-COVID-19, download our Market Share Tip Sheet.

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