How Healthcare Content Can Help Alleviate Common COVID-19 Fears About Seeking Care

Understanding your community’s most common COVID-19 fears is mission critical—here’s how content marketing can alleviate those concerns and instill confidence in seeking care.

Healthcare marketers are facing dual threats due to COVID-19: consumers delaying care due to fears or anxiety and shrinking patient revenue.

Among the new norms for healthcare marketers due to the pandemic, there is an acute focus on accelerating revenue growth. While patient acquisition has always been important, it has vaulted to the pinnacle of COVID-19 plans across all categories—from small, rural hospitals to large, national health systems.

This mandate comes at a time when the ability to attract consumers is increasingly difficult. Hospitals and other providers are marketing to communities who are scared that seeking care will increase their risk of COVID-19 exposure. Many are experiencing other valid concerns keeping would-be patients from getting the screenings and treatments they need.

While these fears surrounding COVID-19 are creating a significant financial impact for healthcare providers, more troubling is the fact that people aren’t seeking care for potentially life-threatening conditions:

  • The CDC reported that in the 10 weeks following declaration of the COVID-19 national emergency, ED visits declined 23% for heart attack, 20% for stroke and 10% for hyperglycemic crisis.
  • According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in June, 52% of adults say they or someone in their family has skipped or delayed getting medical care because of coronavirus. More than a quarter of those who say they or a family member skipped or postponed care because of coronavirus say their condition or their family member’s condition worsened as a result.

For healthcare marketers, there is urgency to address these fears and improve the health of both their communities and organizations. This undertaking will be much more marathon than sprint, a reality that was reinforced in a recent SHSMD podcast featuring Jefferson Health Chief Strategy Officer Monica Doyle, who said, “... one of the things we really have to do now is to convince our patients that it's safe to seek healthcare, and that it's potentially more detrimental to them in the long term, if they avoid screenings, diagnostic procedures, and treatment. So that that’s really how we see the next six months moving forward.”

To reach their communities during this time of crisis, healthcare organizations are turning to the experts in consumer engagement: the marketing department. Around 70% of health system executives surveyed in June said their main concern is replacing lost patient volume and revenue, and a similar share reported their focus is on marketing, education and patient outreach to make it happen.

To guide your efforts to alleviate consumer fears about COVID-19 and grow patient volume, your healthcare marketing strategies must pivot to address current consumer concerns. Here are a few of the most common concerns along with ways your content marketing strategy can address them.

Fear Factor: If I go to the hospital, I might get COVID-19—or I could be asymptomatic and infect others.

These are the primary causes of concern, with 70% of consumers saying they are very or somewhat concerned about getting infected if they go to facilities to receive care for non-COVID-19 issues. In fact, a recent study of 500+ consumers found nearly 20 percent would switch providers if another provider demonstrated better safety and cleaning procedures to protect them from coronavirus. These fears are amplified among those who are pregnant or at risk for specific health conditions, and market leaders are addressing these fears with messaging designed to build trust and bring patients back.

To address this fear, consider these content marketing tips:

  • Target search campaigns around keywords like “is it safe to return to the hospital” and link to landing pages that detail safety procedures and answer common questions.
  • Share stories of patients who were experiencing symptoms and overcame their fears to getting screened that illustrate the importance of early detection.
  • Feature your environmental services team and cleaning regimen in your blog and social content.
  • Contribute OpEd pieces to local news media with details about safety protocols.
  • Create a virtual tour on your website that illustrates how you’re modifying the environment to isolate COVID-19 patients and ensure physical/social distancing.
  • Feature your physicians in content focused on the value of wearing cloth face coverings in public and how wearing medical masks is being implemented in your care settings.
  • Feature caregivers from your Birth Center and other priority service areas on your blog and social pages, to reassure patients and let them know what to expect.
  • Promote urgent care in calls to action to encourage evaluation in the ER and help patients choose between in-person and virtual care.

Here are examples:

  • Adventist HealthCare created a Patient & Visitor Safety landing page featuring a video message from the President and CEO.
  • Beaumont Health features caregivers in their “Safe Care. Available Here.” campaign.
  • Geisinger created a landing page highlighting safety procedures and featuring a hotline for more information.
  • Holy Name Medical Center ensures first-time site visitors get the message: We are open. We are clean. We are ready.
  • Northfield Hospital + Clinics highlights precautions they’re taking to keep mom and baby safe.
  • Rockcastle Regional Rural Health Clinics posted a letter from physicians and staff on the website that details new safety procedures.
  • Tidelands Health launched a multi-channel “Safe in Our Care” campaign highlighting extra precautions to keep patients safe.

Fear Factor: I need care but can’t afford to pay for it.

Not being able to pay medical bills was a major concern before the pandemic, and this anxiety will likely continue as consistent employment becomes a challenge for many consumers.

In fact, a recent analyses found that almost half of families that lost work due to COVID-19 avoided healthcare.

For healthcare marketers, it’s critical to help consumers understand they can’t afford NOT to seek care, especially for life-threatening conditions like heart attack and stroke.

To address this fear, consider these content marketing tips:

  • Research search terms related to financing specific types of healthcare and point local traffic to a resources page with tips and FAQs.
  • Guide consumers on how to access affordable care with articles on your blog.
  • Contribute patient stories to local groups serving young families, older adults and other key demographics within your service area that highlight the importance of seeking care.

Here are some examples:

  • MD Anderson outlines sources of support available to cancer patients.
  • Methodist Health System helps patients estimate charges with contact information for financial counselors.
  • Nemours offers tips to find affordable care, including steps for enrolling children in public programs.

Fear Factor: I don’t know how to use virtual care.

While telemedicine is growing rapidly, there are segments of the population who are less likely to embrace virtual care due to lack of comfort with technology or fear of privacy issues. This is especially true of people ages 65 and older who have historically relied on personal, face-to-face visits when seeking care.

To address this fear, consider these content marketing tips:

  • Create a user-friendly virtual care page on your website featuring “how to” videos and FAQs.
  • Ensure articles about the ease and value of telemedicine have “forward to a friend” and social sharing features so family members can pass information to loved ones.
  • Develop scripts for clinical teams and call center operators to send a clear, consistent message about how to access telemedicine.

Here are some examples:

  • Beaufort Medical Center outlines costs, common ailments covered and other telemedicine details.
  • Novant Health created an animated video to guide consumers through the process of accessing virtual care.
  • Vanderbilt Health provides step-by-step instructions for accessing virtual care.

Fear Factor: I’m struggling with mental or emotional issues—but don’t want anyone to know that I need help.

Stress levels and fears associated with COVID-19 are well above pre-pandemic norms, with worry of infection, rising unemployment and social distancing translating into feelings of anxiety, isolation and depression that show no signs of fading. Unfortunately, those with mental health conditions often suffer in silence. Studies show it can take from six to eight years for those with mood disorders to seek treatment.

To address this fear, consider these content marketing tips:

  • Target paid campaigns with keywords associated with mental health and offer content that underscores the importance of seeking help along with opportunities to connect.
  • Feature content addressing mental health on your website, blog and social channels; consider easily shareable formats like infographics and downloadable guides.
  • Educate civic and community leaders on the importance of mental health through targeted campaigns and content.

Here are some examples:

We’re Here to Help Alleviate Your Community’s Fears

Our team of healthcare content marketing experts can engage your consumers in a way that inspires confidence and encourages return to care.