How to Increase Patient Engagement in Healthcare During COVID-19

Most of us are aware that consumers are hesitant or afraid to pursue elective care during the pandemic. Quell their concerns and bring your health system to top-of-mind with relevant and important content.

We’ve all seen the con­cern­ing sta­tis­tics on declin­ing rates of emer­gency room encoun­ters for heart attack symp­toms and oth­er urgent con­di­tions. Many peo­ple have been delay­ing crit­i­cal care as well as pro­ce­dures to alle­vi­ate chron­ic con­di­tions for sev­er­al months, and as a result: mental fatigue and phys­i­cal pain are tak­ing a toll.

Now more than ever, health­care providers must focus on patient engage­ment best prac­tices dur­ing these chal­leng­ing times.

There are three key cat­e­gories of patients that should be top of mind when plan­ning your con­sumer engage­ment strate­gies right now: those liv­ing with chron­ic con­di­tions, those who need rou­tine med­ical care and pediatrics.

Chronic Disease Management

Chron­ic dis­ease man­age­ment is a chal­leng­ing but crit­i­cal task for health sys­tems across the coun­try. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true as sys­tems are part of more val­ue-based con­tracts. Ensur­ing that patients are seen reg­u­lar­ly by their providers and that they have the tools they need to adhere to treat­ment plans for con­di­tions like dia­betes, chron­ic heart fail­ure and high blood pres­sure are crit­i­cal patient engage­ment best prac­tices. These have become more chal­leng­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic as many at-risk con­sumers are delay­ing appointments.

Here are a few ways mar­keters can sup­port clin­i­cians in the task to increase patient engage­ment and sup­port healthy out­comes over the next few months:

  • Clear­ly com­mu­ni­cate the tele­health options avail­able to patients. Be proac­tive in your quest to dri­ve uti­liza­tion. In-per­son care will most like­ly be nec­es­sary at some point dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. Make sure your most vul­ner­a­ble patients have access to the infor­ma­tion they need. Answer ques­tions relat­ed to how to arrange trans­porta­tion, what the check-in process looks like, how many (if any) vis­i­tors can accom­pa­ny them and oth­er issues that can impact their care.
  • Make the expe­ri­ence as fric­tion­less as pos­si­ble, both in-per­son and vir­tu­al­ly. Vir­tu­al wait­ing rooms are as annoy­ing as sit­ting in a lob­by. Access­ing the care itself should be easy for patients of all ages. Set up a sys­tem that ben­e­fits your patients and con­sid­ers their time.
  • Fre­quent­ly com­mu­ni­cate the impor­tance of pre­ven­tive care mea­sures. Rou­tine pro­ce­dures such as flu shots and oth­er vac­cines, annu­al mam­mo­grams and more should be pro­mot­ed. Pre­vent­ing the flu and detect­ing life-threat­en­ing can­cer ear­ly are arguably as impor­tant as avoid­ing the spread of COVID-19 for our at-risk communities.

Pediatrics

Search vol­ume for top­ics like “can I skip my kids’ vac­cines this year?” is high­er than ever. As we head back to school, par­ents across the coun­try are grap­pling with tough choic­es about school, social events and sports par­tic­i­pa­tion. Worse even, they are skip­ping crit­i­cal well vis­its, vac­ci­na­tions and phys­i­cals for these chil­dren. Devel­op­ing patient engage­ment ideas for this audi­ence is key, and there are two approach­es mar­keters can take to dri­ve engagement.

First, work with your oper­a­tions team on eBlasts to exist­ing patients. In par­tic­u­lar, we’ve found trig­ger cam­paigns that deploy when vac­cines are due to be high­ly effec­tive for increas­ing patient engage­ment. Chances are, fam­i­lies are already get­ting out­reach from you for this, but mar­keters have a unique abil­i­ty to craft mes­sages that dri­ve behav­ior change that should be lever­aged right now.

Sec­ond, your con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy and social cam­paigns should include this top­ic as a focus. Blog posts that are craft­ed with par­ents in mind and tar­get­ed via Face­book and Insta­gram will reach your tar­get demo­graph­ic with con­tent that inspires action.

Here are a few turnkey top­ics that can sup­port patient engage­ment best practices:

  • Crit­i­cal vac­cines no child under 18 should miss
  • Key items to send your child back to school with, includ­ing wipes, san­i­tiz­er and more
  • Hal­loween dur­ing a pan­dem­ic: what to do with­out trick or treating?
  • Keep­ing kids active and at a healthy weight when sports are canceled

Annual Well Visits

If your orga­ni­za­tion is part of an ACO or CIN, has employ­er well­ness con­tracts, or offers a health plan, patient acti­va­tion is like­ly already on your radar. A num­ber of those con­tracts and plans incen­tivize both the patient and health sys­tem for annu­al well vis­its and on-time pre­ven­tive care uti­liza­tion. But, when it comes to dri­ving adher­ence, suc­cess rates are often alarm­ing­ly low. Par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing a pan­dem­ic, it’s hard for patients to see the val­ue of rou­tine vis­its and pre­ven­tive care, and fre­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tion through the right chan­nels is critical.

Here are a few ways to reach your tar­get audi­ence with mes­sages that dri­ve action:

  • eBlasts to known patient lists that com­mu­ni­cate the val­ue of rou­tine care, plus how to access it
  • Vir­tu­al vis­its options for as many rou­tines and pre­ven­tive vis­its as is practical
  • Con­tent on employ­ee por­tals and in newslet­ters that com­mu­ni­cates dead­lines and how to access care
  • Health risk assess­ments (HRAs) to help bridge the gap between health risk and health care (learn how Bap­tist Health used HRAs to nur­ture new leads)
  • Direct mail, par­tic­u­lar­ly for the medicare audi­ences, that clear­ly com­mu­ni­cates dead­lines and how to access the nec­es­sary care
  • Prac­tice out­reach via the phone to patients who have not had their annu­al vis­it yet or who are due for some form of screening

EVOLVE Your Patient Engagement Strategies

We rec­om­mend start­ing with these three seg­ments as part of your patient acqui­si­tion strat­e­gy, but each piece of advice can apply to your engage­ment and growth goals for par­tic­u­lar ser­vice lines or audi­ences, too.

We’re Here to Help You Increase Patient Engagement

If you need a hand with con­tent strat­e­gy and cam­paign exe­cu­tion, let us know. We’ll be hap­py to share addi­tion­al patient engage­ment top­ics and ideas for your unique challenges.

Methodist Health System Boosts Consumer Engagement With Integrated Content Strategy

In one of our favorite content marketing case studies, find out how Methodist Health System—one of the leading healthcare providers in North Texas—evolved its content strategy to drive exponential growth in consumer engagement.

The Organization

Found­ed in 1924, Methodist Health Sys­tem in Dal­las has grown from a local, com­mu­ni­ty hos­pi­tal to a region­al health sys­tem with mul­ti­ple loca­tions across North Texas. Its com­mit­ment to the mis­sion of improv­ing and sav­ing lives through qual­i­ty health care has earned the health sys­tem a long list of acco­lades and the trust of the com­mu­ni­ty it serves.

The Need

Methodist pro­duces a 48-page print pub­li­ca­tion titled SHINE (pic­tured above) four times annu­al­ly. In addi­tion, it pro­duces info­graph­ics, videos, patient sto­ries and oth­er types of con­tent to reach the com­mu­ni­ty. The mar­ket­ing depart­ment staff shares this con­tent on social media and the sys­tem’s web­site but were ready to cre­ate a seam­less expe­ri­ence between those plat­forms and want­ed to evolve the strat­e­gy to meet the chang­ing land­scape of con­tent marketing.

In 2019, they found them­selves with an abun­dance of great con­tent and a strong social media pres­ence but no cen­tral­ized loca­tion for con­sumers to engage with their sto­ries, blog posts and videos. Their exist­ing chan­nel also lacked an effec­tive nur­tur­ing com­po­nent that guid­ed vis­i­tors on the health­care jour­ney. The Methodist team saw the need to go beyond the func­tion­al­i­ty of their exist­ing website’s blog. In an effort to pro­vide a mul­ti­fac­eted con­tent expe­ri­ence and rel­e­vant con­ver­sion oppor­tu­ni­ties for their audi­ence, con­sumer engage­ment was designed to be a focus of the con­tent strategy.

As an inno­v­a­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing agency with 30+ years of expe­ri­ence work­ing with health­care orga­ni­za­tions, True North Cus­tom was select­ed to cre­ate the con­tent hub as part of an inte­grat­ed con­tent strategy.

The Solution

Methodist and True North Cus­tom col­lab­o­rat­ed to build a con­tent hub (pic­tured above) that is capa­ble of hous­ing not only arti­cles and recipes, but also of offer­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly increased func­tion­al­i­ty, including:

  • Embed­ded videos
  • Con­tent shar­ing via social media
  • Seg­men­ta­tion of con­tent by category
  • Search­a­bil­i­ty and measurability
  • Acces­si­bil­i­ty in accor­dance with ADA requirements

In less than two months, the True North team built and launched SHINE Online with all the required con­tent needs, search­a­bil­i­ty and nav­i­ga­tion options, includ­ing the tools need­ed to ana­lyze per­for­mance met­rics and inform future con­tent strategy.

Today, the site hous­es a stream of new and var­ied content:

  • Live Face­book videos of surg­eries (includ­ing an awake brain surgery)
  • Patient sto­ries and videos
  • Sto­ries about physi­cian mis­sion trips
  • Info­graph­ics on top­ics such as heatstroke
  • Healthy recipes
  • Heart-warm­ing pho­tos of new­born babies
  • And much more

The Results

“The cus­tomer ser­vice at True North
has been phe­nom­e­nal. The most
impor­tant qual­i­ty I need from a
ven­dor is the cre­ativ­i­ty and agili­ty
to address and solve both my unique
and tra­di­tion­al pain points. They’ve
gone above and beyond, start­ing with
the con­tract review process, con­tin­u­ing
with our mag­a­zine and web­site builds,
and now with our ongo­ing prod­ucts.
Their respon­sive­ness is among the best
I’ve seen. Def­i­nite­ly 5/5 stars!”
—Sta­cy Covitz, Vice Pres­i­dent,
Mar­ket­ing and Pub­lic Rela­tions,
Methodist Health System

The first two months of data fol­low­ing the launch revealed the site is dri­ving con­sumer engage­ment at unprece­dent­ed lev­els. In fact, August and Sep­tem­ber of 2019 pro­duced over 1,000% more traf­fic than the same time frame in 2018 on Methodist’s for­mer blog, which was housed on their main site.

In Decem­ber 2020, SHINE Online gen­er­at­ed near­ly 100,000 page views—with 80,000 com­ing from new users. The sys­tem’s COVID-relat­ed con­tent is dri­ving sig­nif­i­cant growth in organ­ic traf­fic along with social media shares and referrals.

Each month, we con­tin­ue to see an increase in traf­fic to the blog and a sig­nif­i­cant amount of goal com­ple­tions or conversions—more than 7,500 since August 2019.

Audi­ence

The pri­ma­ry audi­ence falls between 25 and 65 years old, with ages 25–34 the largest traf­fic segment.

We assumed the vast major­i­ty of audi­ence traf­fic would be female. How­ev­er, we have been pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to find that near­ly 35% of total traf­fic has been male. For many mar­keters, men are tra­di­tion­al­ly hard to reach with health con­tent, but engag­ing head­lines and an abun­dance of videos depict­ing live surg­eries and patient sto­ries like a motocross bike acci­dent sur­vivor have increased the male demographic.

The Future

As the site con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate traf­fic, we expect to see even more social engage­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly with a focus on Face­book Live videos that yield high traf­fic and inter­ac­tion (com­ments, likes and shares).

Organ­ic traf­fic will con­tin­ue to grow as the site builds SEO author­i­ty. In a high­ly com­pet­i­tive health­care mar­ket, being seen as a trust­ed health and well­ness resource is a dif­fer­en­tia­tor for Methodist, and its con­tent hub has helped fur­ther define its posi­tion as a part­ner to the community.

Look for future updates on this initiative—and oth­er con­tent mar­ket­ing case studies—to inspire your engage­ment and growth strategies.

Let’s Build Your Content Strategy Together

Find out how we’re help­ing health­care orga­ni­za­tions like yours find, engage and con­vert patients and prospects.

Digital Trends in Population Health Drive Custom Magazine for Children’s Hospital

After publishing Checkup magazine for more than six years, Cook Children’s Health Care System took a leap. The risk was worth the reward.

They shift­ed beyond brand build­ing to a com­mu­ni­ty pub­li­ca­tion focused on at-risk com­mu­ni­ties. This focus on dig­i­tal trends in pop­u­la­tion health allowed the hos­pi­tal to tap into a crit­i­cal audience.

Overview and Objectives

Cook Children’s Health Care Sys­tem, a not-for-prof­it health­care sys­tem based in Fort Worth, Texas, had a unique prob­lem. While its Check­up mag­a­zine was extreme­ly pop­u­lar, the pub­lic rela­tions depart­ment knew its tar­get audi­ence was already inter­act­ing with Cook Children’s in myr­i­ad oth­er ways, main­ly through its Check­up News­room website.

They decid­ed to see if a com­mu­ni­ty pub­li­ca­tion could be a use­ful tool for the at-risk, low­er income pop­u­la­tion served by the Cook Children’s Neigh­bor­hood Clin­ics in the company’s six-coun­ty pri­ma­ry ser­vice area. After review­ing exam­ples of pop­u­la­tion health cam­paigns, the process began to shift the magazine.

“We reached out to the Cen­ter for Children’s Health [the divi­sion of Cook Children’s that is home to the organization’s com­mu­ni­ty health pro­grams] to learn if Check­up would be a use­ful way to reach that audi­ence,” says Kel­ly Woo­ley, mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist with Cook Children’s. “Lar­ry Tubb, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and exec­u­tive direc­tor for the Cen­ter for Children’s Health, thought it was worth a try, and we start­ed the new for­mat with the fall issue in 2015.”

Revised Content Strategy for community publication

“When mak­ing a change like this,
it’s impor­tant that you think about
what your audi­ence needs—not just
want you want to tell them—and
the right way to get that infor­ma­tion
to them. We’ve done that with Check­up,
and the read­ers appre­ci­ate and enjoy
the mag­a­zine.”
—Kel­ly Woo­ley, Mar­ket­ing Spe­cial­ist
at Cook Chil­dren’s Health System

Because the new ver­sion of Check­up was intend­ed for a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent audi­ence, every aspect of the pub­li­ca­tion had to be reimag­ined to focus on pop­u­la­tion health ini­tia­tives and research.

The con­tent focused more on pre­ven­tion than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, expand­ing on cur­rent dig­i­tal trends in pop­u­la­tion health.

“When we talk about our com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tion and out­reach ini­tia­tives, you’ll often hear senior lead­er­ship say we don’t want to see patients in the hos­pi­tal or the doctor’s office, because pre­ven­tion is our goal,” says Kel­ly, point­ing out that the arti­cles focus on the sev­en children’s health issues iden­ti­fied in the health system’s Com­mu­ni­ty-wide Children’s Health Assess­ment & Plan­ning Sur­vey (CCHAPS). “We want to be seen not just as a med­ical cen­ter or a doctor’s office, but as a real health resource for our patients and our community.”

Instead of the eight-page for­mat the med­ical cen­ter had used since True North Cus­tom launched the mag­a­zine in ear­ly 2009, Cook Children’s worked with its True North Cus­tom team to cre­ate a 16-page bilin­gual com­mu­ni­ty pub­li­ca­tion with a flip format.

The out­side front cov­er and the first sev­en pages are in Eng­lish. When the mag­a­zine is flipped, the out­side back cov­er becomes the Span­ish cov­er, and the sub­se­quent sev­en pages are in Spanish.

“We know that the audi­ence for this mag­a­zine isn’t all Eng­lish- or all Span­ish-speak­ing,” Kel­ly says. “The house­holds we serve are often blend­ed or extend­ed fam­i­lies where grand­ma or mom might speak Span­ish, but the kids might speak English.

“How­ev­er, we also know that when it comes to med­ical information—even if a par­ent is pret­ty flu­ent in English—they like to receive it in Span­ish because it’s more com­fort­able to them,” Kel­ly con­tin­ues. “That’s why this for­mat works so well.”

The arti­cles, writ­ten at a third-grade read­ing lev­el, tack­le rel­e­vant top­ics like domes­tic abuse and spank­ing. The arti­cles are high­ly visu­al, and they’re typ­i­cal­ly short and con­tain a vari­ety of lists, charts and pull quotes that help read­ers break down con­tent into eas­i­ly digest­ed infor­ma­tion. A puz­zle page was added to pro­vide an activ­i­ty that par­ents and their chil­dren could work on together.

While the ear­li­er for­mat of Check­up was mailed to homes and well received in the com­mu­ni­ty, the new audi­ence for this pub­li­ca­tion is more tran­sient. A new dis­tri­b­u­tion mod­el had to be devel­oped. Today, the major­i­ty of Check­up copies are dis­trib­uted via the wait­ing rooms of the Cook Children’s Neigh­bor­hood Clin­ics and the med­ical cen­ter, as well as through com­mu­ni­ty part­ner orga­ni­za­tions with sim­i­lar goals, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, local school dis­tricts and the YMCAs. It is also mailed to the system’s CCHAPS respondents.

ReSULTS

The response to the new Check­up has been outstanding—both from the com­mu­ni­ty publication’s audi­ence as well as from inter­nal stake­hold­ers, who rec­og­nize the much-need­ed shift to align with dig­i­tal trends in pop­u­la­tion health.

“When you change the for­mat of a mag­a­zine you’ve been doing—especially when you’re hap­py with the mag­a­zine and its results—it’s a gam­ble,” Kel­ly says. “But this is one case where we feel like it’s been worth it. It’s been so pop­u­lar that every­one won­ders why we didn’t do this earlier.”

To mea­sure read­er engage­ment, Cook Children’s used True North Custom’s sug­ges­tion of a con­test that read­ers can enter to win a $25 gift card. Kel­ly esti­mates she receives more than 100 entries each issue—an over­whelm­ing response con­sid­er­ing the mag­a­zine isn’t mailed to most homes.

Cook Children’s has also per­formed sev­er­al read­er­ship sur­veys that yield­ed these strong results:

  • Half those sur­veyed read the issue from cov­er to cover.
  • Every­one sur­veyed read at least half of the issue.
  • Eight in 10 used the infor­ma­tion learned from the pub­li­ca­tion, and near­ly 7 in 10 shared the infor­ma­tion with some­one else.
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