There are a number of articles being written lately about vanishing patients. Why are there so many fewer instances of patients coming to hospitals with non-coronavirus-related conditions?
As this Washington Post article notes, Americans didn’t stop having appendicitis and cardiac trouble simply because the coronavirus made it inconvenient to receive treatment—they’re simply forgoing hospital visits in fear of contracting COVID-19, and that’s leading to worsening conditions that put these patients at serious risk.
Combine this trend with the fact that patients are also having to postpone elective medical procedures and healthcare facilities are seeing significant declines in the number of patients they’re treating on a day-to-day basis. While hospitals in some parts of the country are seeing those empty beds being filled with patients who are undergoing testing and treatment for coronavirus, others are not seeing the surge of COVID-19 patients they feared.
Regardless of the type of patient traffic they’re seeing, healthcare providers all over the country are growing concerned about patients’ misconceptions related to how and when they should go to the hospital.
In this post, we will use four data charts to reveal the current mindset of patients, as well as opportunities for your healthcare organization to address your patients’ concerns and meet their needs.
Charts 1 & 2: Patients plan to resume treatment, but they’re also concerned
One piece of good news is that patients generally plan to pick up where they left off in addressing their non-emergency medical procedures once the pandemic subsides, as we can see from this data collected by Google:
However, another Google data point confirms that there’s still a lot of fear in the general public about seeking treatment overall. Searches for “safe hospital” have skyrocketed in the last 6 weeks.
Additionally, a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll found 72% of Americans said they believe quarantine measures should remain in place until "doctors and public health officials say it is safe."
So, if hospitals and health systems believe that simply reopening their doors is going to allow for a return to normal operations and normal service-line patient volumes, they’re in for a surprise because the fear represented in the data suggests otherwise.
So what is a healthcare marketer to do?
Is it not a good idea to turn the marketing spigot back on full blast to encourage the huge reservoir of known demand to connect with your providers? Of course you’re going to need to start up your marketing again, but... as a savvy healthcare marketer, you need to find a way to reassure your local population that it’s actually safe to visit your facilities again.
Chart 3 & 4: An opportunity to rebuild patient confidence
And speaking of reassurance, what better way is there to rebuild patient confidence than through the experts patients trust the most—the medical community? As you can see in the data below, doctors and nurses are among the most trusted professionals in America.
Additionally, a recent NRC Health study found that when it comes to information about COVID-19, people trust their local hospitals and health systems even more than they trust the federal government or national news outlets.
This means it’s more important than ever for your hospital or health system to get vocal. One great way to address patients’ fear head on is to run a recovery marketing campaign featuring your medical professionals explaining updated best practices for seeking care and what your hospital or health system is doing to keep patients safe.
One of the best places to share this information right now is through social media. With so many people stuck at home, social media usage has spiked. Additionally, with so many advertisers putting their campaigns on hold due to the current crisis, social media ad inventory has gone up and costs have gone down, which means you’re able to do more with your budget.
The chart below shows how the average cost per 1,000 ad impressions on Facebook has significantly dropped in alignment with the coronavirus outbreak.
At the end of the day, here’s your takeaway...
The smart bet is to absolutely restart your marketing campaigns, but the even smarter bet is to add a recovery campaign to boost confidence in the safety of your facilities and operation.
Your community needs to hear from you, and research shows that they will listen to what you have to say.
If you would like assistance creating a recovery marketing strategy for your organization, feel free to reach out to our healthcare digital marketing experts. We are currently helping hospitals and health systems all across the nation strategize their communications to better serve their patient populations during this critical time, and we would be happy to help you as well.
For more helpful information about how to market your organizations during COVID-19, be sure to visit our information center. We’re here to serve as a resource to you and your team!