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.

The Big Shift: How COVID-19 Is Driving the Evolution of Healthcare Content Strategy

In the latest True North guide for healthcare marketing pros, you’ll learn how to evolve your content marketing strategy to align with shifts in consumer habits and preferences that were underway prior to the pandemic.

Dur­ing the COVID-19 cri­sis, the hourly news cycle has fueled the need for time­ly, accu­rate and engag­ing health­care con­tent by orders of mag­ni­tude. Between the months of Jan­u­ary and March of this year, it’s esti­mat­ed that more than 1,500 arti­cles on COVID-19 were being devel­oped each day.

This demand for health­care content—and its val­ue to consumers—is demon­strat­ed by recent studies:

The data sends a clear mes­sage: con­tent is still king—if cre­at­ed inten­tion­al­ly and built around the com­mu­ni­ty served. Like the mar­ket lead­ers embrac­ing telemed­i­cine and oth­er con­sumer-cen­tric deliv­ery mod­els, health­care mar­keters who pur­pose­ful­ly recon­struct their con­tent strate­gies around the rapid­ly chang­ing lifestyle habits and media pref­er­ences of their audi­ences will build trust and rise above the competition.

The time to reject busi­ness-as-usu­al health­care mar­ket­ing is now. Engag­ing today’s health­care con­sumers requires fun­da­men­tal shifts in how con­tent is planned, devel­oped and distributed.

To guide your efforts, we’ve iden­ti­fied four piv­otal areas that will make or break your COVID-19 con­tent strat­e­gy dur­ing the pan­dem­ic and in the future. 

Download the Full Report

Want the full ver­sion eBook—including exam­ples and rec­om­men­da­tions for the most effec­tive COVID-19 con­tent strat­e­gy tac­tics for each shift? Down­load the entire report here.

Let’s Plan Your Strategy

Let our health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing experts help you nav­i­gate these shifts. 

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