Assumptions About Women Users

Our company had to figure out why user adoption was so low with video consultations compared to phone consultations. We had a lot of resources invested in developing our own video solution and user satisfaction was significantly higher after a video consultation.

However, only 3% off all consultations were done over video. I was tasked with 1) figuring out why and how video wasn't a popular utilization and 2) suggesting solutions to improve the video utilization.

Many assumptions were made by our leadership. Among these, the assumption that  “women don’t like to use video conferencing when they’re sick” caught my attention as it resonated with comments made by a group of women in a focus group earlier that year. I used this assumption as a primary angle to look into the problem. Women accounted for almost 2/3 of our users.


In the early stage of discovery I found that 70% of our users had never seen our online products. We had a great call center able to efficiently handle large amounts of consultation requests and account creation made over phone calls. Consequently a large majority of our users knew nothing about our online services!


We launched a user survey using Usertesting.com with 120 respondents. We created a series of scenarios meant to question the most dominant assumptions regarding low adoption of the video medium, paying particular attention to gender bias regarding the choice of communication mediums.

Fear of Privacy vs. Need for Transparency

We discovered that women, if thinking only abstractly of using a telehealth service, were considerably more likely to negatively perceive video conferencing due to the medium’s privacy stigma. But the perception radically changed when the telehealth service was actually needed. When feeling sick, women demanded video as much as men. Both found video to be a more transparent way to communicate with a doctor than the phone.

Trust Me, I'm Sick

We also discovered a correlation between an absence from work due to illness and the need for a truthful interaction with a doctor to verify that illness and obtain a doctor’s note. Respondents perceived visual interaction as more trustworthy than a phone consultation.

A Problem Of Supply And Demand

Finally, we established that demand for video consultation was considerably greater than the supply, as half of the respondents were likely to choose video consultation. So the issue was on the providers' side.

Looking into it we found that doctors had greater incentives for offering phone visits than video visits—the primary reason for this was that video visits were likely to fail due to technical problems. The secondary reason was that a visual interaction induced slightly longer lasting interactions but the consultation paid the same regardless of the time spent.

Then we inquired about the way patients discovered our services. A majority of them had access to our service through their employer. They learned about it through leaflets or notes, often posted by HR in the break room. We gathered samples of marketing material. Two options were given: a phone number or a relatively long URL. Most people called the phone number the first time they needed a consultation and, satisfied, had no incentives to go discover our online products.  


Better doctor incentives: It was necessary to rethink doctor incentives—we couldn't just pay them per consultation or a phone consultation would remain the primary medium.  

Advertise phone consultations: We also recommended working on a new set of messages targeting women that showed a phone interaction as a primary medium for online visits; this would address women's initial negative perception of a telehealth industry which solely uses teleconferencing allegories to advertise their services.

Bridge the phone experience to the online experience: We also suggested improving mobility between mediums: we had to push people online, so that anyone who calls needs to have an easy way to jump online and have a video consultation.

Promote doctor's notes: And finally we asked to capitalize on doctors’ notes justifying an absence at work—a powerful incentive to using a telehealth application and likely a better way to increase adoption than a pinned leaflet in an employee break room!