By Bailey Gray
As the country slowly phases into reopening amid Coronavirus (COVID-19), Americans continue to seek out options to maintain a balance between safety and some semblance of their normal lives. This has led to increased interest, searches, and conversation around a number of categories. Receiving good health care, from the safety of one’s home, is on top of everyone’s mind. Despite states reopening, entering a doctor’s office still creates concern for many Americans.
Interest in telemedicine has reached an all-time high. Search volume, content consumption, and online conversations are surging as individuals seek out medical care while avoiding the possibility of exposing themselves to COVID-19. As demand and interest continue to rise, telemedicine has made headway. Public sentiment and interest are growing, and telemedicine is becoming more prevalent and accepted. It’s a good time for health plans, medical practices, and doctors that offer online services to consider the impact that this virus has had and how they can better prepare for a future that will be more competitive online.
Search Volume for Telemedicine is Peaking
Telemedicine, along with similar terms such as telehealth and teladoc, saw a drastic increase in search volume starting the second and third weeks of March. Many Americans have regular visits with their doctors, and it’s an important part of their personal health plan. During a pandemic, continuing to receive care from doctors without the risk of contracting the virus is a top priority. As searches for telemedicine continue to rise, breakout subtopics have emerged as well. We see terms such as “telehealth platforms” and “telehealth plans” go from nearly zero searches in previous months to an all-time high in the midst of this pandemic.
Telemedicine Content Creation & Consumption Spikes
The interest in telemedicine doesn’t stop with search trends as interest and engagement are evident through content consumption as well. In 2020, we have seen telemedicine content takeoff with a 5x increase in published articles in March along with strong growth in April and May. Not only has the volume of content increased, but the engagement has outpaced the amount produced. March saw a 7x spike in engagement with telemedicine-related articles, followed by strong months of engagement in April and May. While March and April saw the most significant growth, engagement with telemedicine content in May outpaces the amount from January and February by 5x.
Telemedicine Social Conversation Skyrockets and Trends Positive
From a consumer sentiment perspective, we see strong, positive emotion and conversation occurring around the topic of telemedicine. Starting at the beginning of March, conversations skyrocketed among consumers and the media. The conversation doesn’t stop there, as online conversations have increased nearly 6x since the first quarantine orders were put in place with sentiment towards telemedicine remaining overwhelmingly positive and continuing as we move into reopening phases. 88% of the conversation skews positive, as those conversations show emotional feelings towards telemedicine such as “great,” “best option,” “great tool,” and “best solution.” All of these words are used in some manner to praise what is being offered through virtual doctor visits. The majority of the negative conversations centered around stay-at-home restrictions, not telemedicine itself.
Behavioral conversations skew positive as well – with people using words like “provide,” “need,” “recommend,” and “switch.” Seeing a behavioral term like switch allows us to see that many appointments were in fact switched to telehealth options since March, and will likely remain in place in order to provide safety to their patients for months to come.
Current events have caused us to pause or eliminate certain things from our daily lives, but some areas, such as our health, are not up for debate. As Americans seek the best options to maintain necessary appointments with doctors – new trends have been uncovered. Telemedicine is not a new idea, but it hasn’t been widely accepted and approved despite technological advances. Since the start of the pandemic, interest has skyrocketed — potentially opening up a path for acceptance across medical centers and health plans for the foreseeable future. As interest and needs continue to trend upwards, now is the time for businesses with telemedicine options to ensure that their messaging and digital marketing strategies and tactics — search engine optimization (SEO), search, social, and display advertising, website and landing pages, etc. — provide visibility to new and existing audiences.
About Bailey Gray
As Director of Social Media and Content at REQ, Bailey Gray collaborates with his team on campaign strategy, production, and day-to-day operations to help deliver strategic messaging to clients’ core audiences at the right time and place through compelling brand stories. During his 14 years of digital marketing experience, he has focused on content marketing and social media to drive leads and sales, build online communities, and improve brands’ recognition. For four years he has directly overseen the social media and content strategy, as well as community management, for three of Centene Corporation’s health plans – gaining insight and experience in the healthcare industry. With an emphasis on engaging customers and prospects in all phases of the consumer decision journey, he helps clients move consumers through the funnel and influence desired business outcomes.