Health care providers instill a sense of stability for all of us during uncertain times. And with some estimates saying that nearly 97% of Americans are living under stay-at-home orders, that’s a lot of people limited to the confines of their homes watching television or reading the news, either print or online.
As a result, never before in the history of marketing and public relations have health care providers been able to reach such a large captive audience on a daily basis.
Hospital communicators are working hard, now more than ever, to proactively educate the communities they serve by sharing important information about COVID-19 on their websites and social media platforms while also managing a flood of incoming media inquiries. They must ensure that information is current, accurate and is provided in a timely manner.
In addition, health care providers throughout the nation have been recognizing the amazing nurses and physicians who have been working the front line of care during this crisis. They are the true heroes as they make the ultimate sacrifice to save lives, while oftentimes placing their own health at risk.
Because of the inability to perform elective surgeries and procedures, hospitals have had to pivot from marketing traditional centers of excellence, such as heart care, cancer care or orthopedics. They are doing so in response to orders handed down in March from governors of nearly every state that halted elective surgeries, diagnostic testing and other medical procedures, other than those deemed urgent and medically necessary to preserve a patient’s life or long-term health.
Almost every hospital and physician-group practice in America has been promoting telehealth as a safe alternative to seeing a patient in person. And while I am not aware of any health care provider that has paused its strategic marketing initiatives entirely, nearly 100 percent have changed the messaging to telehealth as a new way to see your physician in a virtual environment.
Never before in the history of health care provider marketing has the universal message been to promote the same service at the same time. And while the change to this form of virtual health care has been necessary because of COVID-19, it will be interesting to see what percentage of the patient population enjoyed the convenience of a virtual medical visit and, as a result, will desire to continue with this platform as a way of seeing their doctors after the pandemic.
From a journalism perspective, the news cycle is much longer. COVID-19 is nearly exclusively the story of the day and will continue to be for many months to come. Because of this dominance of COVID-19 in the news, every news reporter or journalist is now a health care reporter. General-assignment reporters who are normally not required to be up to speed on healthcare-related issues are now being sent to the front lines for coverage.
But a shift in health care communications is coming soon. In the coming weeks, you will start to see a transition from hospitals and physician-group practices marketing telehealth to promoting the fact that procedural restrictions have been lifted and they are now open to once again provide elective surgeries, perform diagnostic testing and see patients in person in a coordinated process based on a series of phases.
This really can’t come soon enough for hospitals all over America, as they are experiencing historic declines in patient revenue at alarming rates in preparation for accepting COVID-19 patients.
Now is the time, more than ever before, for hospitals to strategically begin notifying their patient populations that it is time to schedule or reschedule that much-anticipated appointment with a specialist or for that much-awaited surgical procedure. It really can’t happen soon enough, so that hospitals can at least begin the process of financial recovery over time. After all, for most communities in America, hospitals are not only the epicenter of health care but jobs and the economy, as well.