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. It's no secret that many people are delaying critical care during the pandemic. As a result, it is critical for healthcare providers to focus on patient engagement during these challenging times.

There are key categories of patients that should be top of mind when planning your patient engagement strategies right now. Specifically, these include two groups: those living with chronic conditions and those who need routine medical care.

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 provider 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 strategies. 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 activation 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 a 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 this children. Patient activation 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:

  • 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 cancelled

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’s 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 routine and preventive visits as is practical
  • Content on employee portals and in newsletters that communicates deadlines and how to access care
  • 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.