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.

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.

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