The pandemic has had a dynamic impact on all aspects of society, including the medical community. For many patients, it’s meant the delaying of evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment for elective surgery.
Deemed non-essential, these processes are still life changing and of great importance. Yet, in many cases, restrictions by governing bodies haven’t been the sole obstacle. Patients themselves have had to make a choice. To everyone’s chagrin, COVID-19 has prompted if practical, but psychological, barriers to delivering care.
The prolonged lockdown has impacted everything from movie theaters to buying patterns to elective surgery. Healthcare marketing has been hit hard. The field remains an integral piece to sustainable growth. Like every other business out there, healthcare must find and implement practices that reconnect to targets, i.e., patients.
Ironically, even as the medical community puts itself on the front line due to the rise of COVID-19, the pandemic has still had devastating impact in many ways, including seeing reduced number of patients who fear the virus.
In that regard, we’ve compiled our best practices and tips to help you in the restoration of patient confidence and for getting them the care they need now.
Barrier: For some, exposure to the coronavirus outweighed the need for care.
Solution: Highlight safety procedures and provide a variety of appointment options.
- Create a relaunch map. Develop a detailed site by site, segment by segment, patient by patient, and product by product game plan to prioritize recovery opportunities.
- Redefine conditions to ensure safe and comfortable patient experiences. Reinforce safety precautions already in place — ones patients can and cannot see throughout the office and other areas.
- Remobilize your employees. Reinforce safety measures in the workplace, letting employees return and operate comfortably and efficiently. Extend protective measures outside the health system.
- Consider strategies for telehealth. Depending on condition and treatment options, telehealth or virtual appointments could be an effective alternative.
Barrier: With conflicting, contradicting and constantly changing rules, COVID-19 leaves perplexed consumers unsure of what to do, and in response, they do nothing.
Solution: Guide patients in smart ways to manage care in a time of uncertainty.
- Advise patients to update emergency medical and daily care plans.
- Suggest four weeks supplies of medical, nutritional and pharma supplies, thus minimizing visits to other, outside resources.
- Provide counsel on how to remain safe via patient friendly materials.
Barrier: The stress of the pandemic and its repercussions have left patients stressed and their routines disrupted.
Solution: Offer tips for reducing anxiety and stress.
- Through safe practices, give patients “calm confidence” as opposed to “fearful reactivity.”
- Emphasize and re-emphasize the importance of reestablishing patient routines even in unpredictable times. A critical aspect of pandemic recovery has to be creating structure and an individual new normal.
- Encourage open conversation about the inner conflict with family and friends.
Barrier: The impact of coronavirus has shocked the healthcare system and strained its resources.
Solution: Identify and capture pockets of profitable growth. Optimize marketing mixes and increase the speed of decision making.
- Identify and capture pockets of profitable growth, specialty services and available capacity. This will go a long way to getting health systems ready to reallocate exploration and marketing expenses promptly.
- Optimize your marketing channel mix. Marketing departments will need to ensure offerings are in line with crisis-related shifts in demand. Short term, that means actively encouraging patients to interact through digital channels. Winning this battle is essential. Brand loyalty is already being tested by the pandemic and the medical community should prepare to counteract negative impact.
- Increase the speed of decision making and innovation. A successful restore is going to require addressing a range of interdependent issues. Many go beyond the typical governance framework due to complexity, scale and speed of response. Crisis management can set up hubs, providing a solid foundation to navigate issues and innovate fast.
What we are ultimately looking at is changing the sentiment of patients during the pandemic. A survey published by the American Association of Advertising Agencies says 43% of survey respondents felt comforted hearing from the brands they trust during the pandemic. 40% were anxious to find out which brands were actively and positively responding to the coronavirus.
It's time to amplify your brand, mission and message. A smart move is to utilize all marketing channels to keep customers informed and to reassure them that the healthcare community — as always — is dedicated to their safety and well-being. This will require both smart improvising and careful strategy, finding the best ways to support and encourage, and getting patients to trust your brand.
Taking advantage of online opportunities will be mission critical. Everyone’s on their device(s). They are looking for initiatives and measures that show effort to maximize public safety, and they definitely need to hear this from their healthcare providers. Existing and new patients want to know about the availability of doctors for consultation, how appointment settings are being altered to reduce sitting in crowded waiting rooms, what policy changes are implemented, and more. And this must be a constant feed, as there are tremendous amounts of misinformation fed to patients that in turn feeds distrust. Marketing will need to be as informative as possible. Educate and drive increased awareness through blogs, articles, infographics, video, podcasts and more. Link to reliable trusted sources as needed. Websites, SEO and organic marketing, social media, virtual town meetings, they can all play their part in orchestrating your strategy.
The entire world is navigating itself through the corona quagmire. To reinforce confidence, be assuring to your target audience. To minimize disruption, put a spotlight on leadership, and facilitate concise and clear communication. The public has to know you intend to fulfill your mission to care for the community, especially in the worst of times.
The recession of 2008 taught us one thing. Patient habits can persist beyond a crisis. This forced marketers to be innovative and resilient. The pandemic is indeed creating havoc, but it also challenges us, to find ways to come back. The coronavirus has separated us, but personalized contact and trusted, informed experiences are going to be key to bringing the patient back.