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 yet only 3% off all consultations were done over video. But user satisfaction was significantly higher after a video consultation.
I was tasked to figure out why and how video wasn't popular utilization and suggest 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 but costly phone infrastructure able to efficiently handle large amounts of consultation requests and account creation, and they could shield a patient from doing anything online. So 70% of our users didn't know anything about our online services! I was surprised to be the first one to make this observation!
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. We paid particular attention to gender bias regarding the choice of communication mediums.
fear of privacy vs. need for Sincerity
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 needed. In fact, the demand for video is similar between men and women when they’re feeling sick, both found video to be a more sincere 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 (in the form of a doctor’s note). Respondents perceived visual interaction more trustworthy than a phone consultation.
A problem of demand and supply
Finally, we established that demand for video consultation was considerably greater than the supply, 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. Then a visual interaction induced slightly longer lasting interactions and the consultation were 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 sampled of marketing material. Two options were given: a phone number or a relatively long URL. Most people called the first time and their account was handled by our customer service. They had no incentives to use our online products and didn't know about our video consultations.
It was necessary to rethink doctor incentives, we couldn't just pay them per consultation or a phone consultation would remain the primary medium. We also suggested to improve mobility between mediums: we had to push people online, anyone who calls needed to have an easy way to jump online and have a video consultation.
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.
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 brakeroom!