As most healthcare systems move out of emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the question arises: How do you market now?
Many hospitals and healthcare systems are struggling for revenue because they paused elective and specialty surgeries so they could manage patients with the novel coronavirus. Once your hospital is ready to resume scheduling surgeries for patients, marketing will be key to filling the patient pipeline. However, you may wonder how to market effectively at this time. People are worried about their health and concerned about the changes they are hearing about in how healthcare is being managed during the COVID-19 crisis. That has resulted in public misperceptions about hospital and healthcare systems.
Now is the time to reset the relationship between your health system and consumers, so you can get more patients into your facility. Take advantage of the goodwill that your hospital or health system has built up with the communities you serve. Here’s how your healthcare marketing initiatives can do that:
WHAT TO COMMUNICATE
Anecdotal evidence indicates that people are not going to the hospital because they fear getting the novel coronavirus or because they believe that hospitals aren’t equipped to treat them because they are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Because safety is top of mind with the public, your marketing plan needs to include ways to communicate that your hospital is safe and able to care for people, just as it always has been.
- Start with the benefits. Remind people that coming to the ER for urgent care or scheduling their elective surgeries means they can have faster treatment for their conditions and better health outcomes than waiting at home.
- Add assurance. Explain your rigorous disinfection protocols in the ER and throughout the hospital that significantly reduce the chances of non-COVID-19 patients becoming infected. If your COVID-19 patient census is low, publish the numbers and explain that COVID-19 patients have been kept in isolation. Better yet, produce a simple video using a cell phone and Facebook Live to show the back-to-normal look of hallways and waiting rooms and patients at appropriate social distance.
- Explain protocols. People are hungry for information about what they could expect to experience in the hospital. Explain what measures are taken to keep patients and families safe when they come to the hospital, and what new protocols they can expect, such as new visitation policies and screenings.
- What not to communicate. Equally important is what not to communicate. Don’t advertise that you are reopening. Your hospital or healthcare system never closed. Remind people that although you had to adapt how you cared for patients throughout the coronavirus pandemic, you never stopped providing care.
To re-establish relationships with your patient audiences, remember that people are looking for answers and assurance. Communicating facts and information in an authentic manner is the best way to get more patients.
WHO SHOULD COMMUNICATE
If there is one marketing lesson that COVID-19 has taught healthcare brands it’s that people respond well to physicians. From Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to the regional physicians who have been interviewed by local media outlets, public attitudes have been substantially more positive about doctors during the unfolding coronavirus threat.
In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 74% of Americans have a positive view of doctors, compared to business leaders (46%) or news media (47%). Now is the time to leverage that trust as part of your healthcare marketing initiatives. Consider:
- Producing short videos of doctor interviews offering health advice or explaining new coronavirus data
- Creating telemedicine campaigns that feature your physicians
- Publishing the narrative of a doctor and patient who fought the coronavirus together
WHERE TO ENGAGE
People are hungry for information and want to be communicated with about ways to stay healthy and the quality of care they can expect from your institution. To reach more people with your healthcare brand message, segmenting your messaging by channels and audience is important. Engage with people where they prefer to get their information:
- Silent Generation – These consumers born between 1927 and 1945 often prefer phone conversations and direct mail.
- Baby Boomers – These consumers born between 1945 and 1964 are active Facebook users, enjoy watching videos, and will respond to email and printed materials.
- Gen X – These consumers born between 1965 and 1980 will check your website for information and will engage with your brand on social media. They check email multiple times a day and are especially engaged with video marketing.
- Millennials and Gen Z – These consumers born between 1981 and 1998 (Millennials) and 1998 and 2015 (Gen Z) are highly engaged on video platforms like YouTube and TikTok and appreciate authentic content on social media platforms.
PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE
While much is still unknown about the COVID-19 virus, data suggest we can expect an uneven recovery. That means you need to act now to craft messaging before the next possible wave of the virus affects your community. Decide now how you will provide locally relevant information and how you will promote that content to reach as many people as possible. Then, make sure to:
- Prioritize messages about safety and reassurance that your hospital is able to help and treat all people.
- Craft content that explains how your hospital is alleviating the crisis.
- Promote all the ways people can receive safe treatment, including through telemedicine.
As we move from crisis to recovery, it’s important that hospital and healthcare system marketers ensure that their brands play a visible and purpose-driven role in educating the public and resetting relationships with consumers.
AN AGENCY RELATIONSHIP YOU CAN DEPEND ON
LIGHTSTREAM is ready to help your hospital or health system accomplish more with its marketing budget, so you can better adapt to these challenging times. Turn to us for a full range of cost-effective traditional and digital marketing services, a streamlined process, and deep healthcare marketing expertise. Contact us to learn more.