After months of waiting, we are finally at a point in the pandemic where we can start communicating the availability of effective vaccinations. While this is great news, the complexity of who can get vaccinated first and where is causing a great deal of confusion, particularly for seniors and their caregivers.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) recommends healthcare consumers over 65 get vaccinated, few communications have targeted these groups or provided understanding and navigation to access the vaccine in their community. In an article from NPR, Jeremy Novich, a clinical psychologist from New York City, said it best: ”You can’t have the vaccine distribution be a race between elderly people typing and younger people typing. That’s not a race; that’s just cruel.”
Whether you’re a healthcare provider or you’re part of a healthcare system, how can you help ease the confusion and frustration and help your aging patients access or prepare for COVID-19 vaccinations? Here are four techniques you should include as part of your healthcare marketing efforts to reach older patients:
1. Create a rollout plan that considers your older patients. How are you reaching them?
Identifying your key patient audiences is fundamental in creating effective COVID-19 prevention and vaccination messaging that ensures your community’s health.
There are very few health systems for seniors or patients over the age of 65 that aren’t a key constituent. Still, many health systems rarely develop content specifically for older patients, including around COVID-19. As the demographic with the highest risk of infection and severe illness, there is very little COVID-19 prevention and vaccine information specifically for older patients, either available in the media or by health providers and systems.
This is the opportunity to ask if your organization is creating content for older patients, explaining how COVID-19 infections can be particularly more harmful to their age segment. And consider this a chance to establish or further deepen your connection with aging patients past the epidemic. If you build a strong level of trust in your healthcare delivery and become an authoritative voice for this community, imagine how you can build on that when communicating about key service lines or conditions that especially affect older patients.
2. Make scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments an easier experience online and offline.
There’s still a bit of mythology around digital usage by older consumers. The idea is that if they were using your online scheduling functionality on your website before or during COVID, they would be using it to schedule their vaccinations.
Don’t forget to create communication mechanisms for those who feel they are not tech-savvy. Do your front-desk or call center representatives know about your vaccination rollouts? If not, make sure they are fully informed to help those who may just pick up the phone to call their primary care providers or hospital. Have alternatives in place beyond online scheduling and web forms to ensure ease of access and the widest possible rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in your area, and make sure you have the internal resources in place to accommodate these needs.
3. Keep users abreast of when you will have COVID-19 vaccine inventory and the best way to access it.
While health systems are becoming more communicative about the virus, there’s still a need for creating clarity around who can access the vaccine, when it will be available, particularly for older consumers, and how and where to access vaccines.
According to a 2021 Statistica report, 73% of adults over 65 are active internet users. However, in findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, “only half of people age 50 to 80 have set up an account on a secure online access site, or ’patient portal,’ offered by their health care provider.” If your vaccination scheduling is managed through your patient portal, do you have a nonportal scheduling ability, or can you create a central phone line for those who would prefer to schedule their appointment by phone?
With a great demand but still little vaccine inventory, steer away from creating more frustration and confusion by being blatant and upfront on your vaccine inventory. If you don’t have an assured plan yet, be honest and say it’s in-development but that your organization will keep updating the status of availability on the website, on social media, or via your providers’ phone lines.
4. Help caregivers help their loved ones access COVID-19 vaccinations.
Family caregivers often play important roles in managing health and wellness for their aging loved ones. As your organization rolls out plans for this unprecedented vaccination effort, make sure you consider the following items that apply specifically to caregivers:
- If your online scheduling is through your patient portal, can a caregiver access their loved one’s records and make appointments for them?
- Create blog content offering tips and support to caregivers seeking to protect their older loved ones from COVID-19.
- Show them you are an organization that knows it’s not just COVID-19 infection your worry about. This is a great time to create content for your blog and website that directly speaks to the caregiver. Are you providing information on in-home services, financial assistance, healthcare proxies, aging adult nutrition, etc.?
In the next blog entry in this series, learn how to connect with the millennial generation on COVID-19 prevention and how to build their interest and trust in your healthcare organization during the pandemic. Follow this series to learn about the barriers or opportunities to engage with unique consumer audiences and learn about the digital marketing tactics you can use to best engage and motivate them in their healthcare journeys or contact our experts today.