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COVID Checklist: Five Things Hospital Marketers Should Do This Week (March 26, 2020)

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COVID-19 is dominating the news cycles, many hospitals have stopped all electives procedures to focus on the first wave response to the coronavirus pandemic.  (See the previous post on first wave responses.)   While not all patients are impacted by the disease itself, all patients are impacted in some way and the disruption to care is immense.

According to a Revive Health study, local health experts were the number one most trusted source for information on how the pandemic will affect their households and communities, more than government agencies, news sources, and even national experts.  Hospital marketers have a critical role to play as the situation continues to evolve.

Here are five actionable steps hospital marketers can take to respond to the coronavirus pandemic this upcoming week.

Drive Virtual Visits through SEM, Find a Doctor, and Service Lines

First, healthcare systems with virtual visit capabilities should reallocate digital service line spending to promote them. We have clients who have seen a 100x increase in daily virtual visits as communities are sent home by re-allocating pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns towards them.

Second, while most sites now have COVID banners as an alert at the top of the homepage, the Find a Doctor (FAD) pages largely omit what new steps a patient should take to get seen by a doctor. A simple pop-up or call-to-action on these pages can save patients valuable time, especially if you have previously promoted online booking.

Finally, review your key service lines to ensure that content is specific and actionable on how virtual visits can be an option to avoid disruptions in their care, where applicable.  Many service lines pages still incorrectly list calls-to-action, such as Book an Appointment.

Address Complex Care Patients with Special Advisories

More complex patients – those needing cancer or dialysis treatment, pregnant women, and those who are immuno-suppressed – face different challenges in receiving care.

Beyond what is addressed on your central FAQ page, add highly specific “COVID Advisory” content on service line pages:

  1. How can I prevent getting COVID?
  2. What special steps should I take to prevent infection?
  3. What should I do if I become ill?
  4. Where should I receive a screening?
  5. What should I be doing if my treatment has been disrupted?

For example, what are the risks of COVID-19 to people with rheumatic conditions? Will a pregnant woman be able to bring a spouse or loved one to a key appointment or procedure?  What steps should a dialysis patient take to avoid disruptions in treatment?

Staff in these departments will be aware of commonly asked questions and responses unique to their populations.  As these patients cannot simply be reallocated to virtual visits, develop a specific plan to communicate well with each segment about their care and concerns.

Use Social Boosts to Communicate about COVID

As of this writing, Google and Facebook have placed restrictions on their ability for businesses to use their advertising networks to promote coronavirus related content, regardless of the authenticity of the source.

This poses a unique challenge for hospitals trying to get their messages out – Google is pausing campaigns that mention COVID-19 or coronavirus on landing pages.  Rather than promoting coronavirus stories via paid search, leverage boosted organic social posts instead.

Build content stories on social platforms and pay to boost them to extend their reach.   From our experience, boosted stories from a credible source are far more likely to proceed than other forms of advertising.  Activity on Facebook is at an all-time high—messaging on Facebook has soared 50% above pre-pandemic levels.  A social post also targets your specific community and can go a long way in dispelling medical hoaxes and rumors.

Tag Locations: Testing, Triage, “Well-Only” or Closed

The number one concern on patients’ minds is where they can receive testing for coronavirus. This is a moving target as operational plans change, but it’s key to push information out once it’s decided internally.

Update your locations to include clear indicators as to their status:

  • Testing for COVID is available
  • Triage for COVID is available
  • Well-visits only are available
  • Closed

More than ever, patients are confused about where they should go for coronavirus and but also for other urgent care issues—the emergency room, urgent care, virtual visit, or stay at home.  Dispelling this confusion can lift anxiety from the patient and help steer patients to the right location, lessening the burden on clinical offices.

Mobilize Support, Volunteers, and Fundraising

If you’re looking for a positive message amidst the COVID pandemic, there is no shortage in generating well-wishes for your front-line care delivery teams.  A simple post of support on a social channel will receive significant engagement from the community and give real-time feedback to those on the front line.

It’s critical to engage volunteers during these early weeks as you may need to mobilize their support for:

  • Blood drives
  • Masks and other PPE materials
  • Fundraising efforts to offset costs

As hospital marketers right now, you are not just a trusted advisor, you are the go-to source for many people in your community.  Use the checklist above to quickly understand what needs to be addressed.

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Paul Griffiths

Paul Griffiths is the GM of the Digital Healthcare Solutions unit at Perficient, where he works with hospital and health plan marketing departments on digital initiatives. DHS services integrated healthcare delivery systems around the United States.

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