Even though healthcare organizations across the country have reopened for nonessential medical, surgical, and dental procedures, consumers are still hesitant to seek care for fear of contracting COVID-19.
A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and released in late May indicated that close to 50% of Americans had a family member who delayed care during the pandemic and further, one in 10 said the family member’s condition worsened as a result. While that survey did indicate Americans anticipate a return to provider care in the near future, a study conducted by The Advisory Board the following month determined that access to a vaccine was the single-most important factor in patients feeling safe returning to care. With timing for an effective vaccine still uncertain, how can you rise above this fear and encourage patients to come back in the interim?
Your messaging strategy is key—what you say and how and where you say it. Here are some quick tips to help inform your strategy and ultimately, fill your exam rooms (in a socially distanced manner, of course).
- Develop engaging COVID-related content. Patients want to understand the protocols you’ve put in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection. These protocols are very much standardized; however, you can deliver this information in a unique and effective format to stand out. Consider creating a captivating piece of communication—maybe a virtual office experience, a short video or an interactive infographic—that outlines the safeguards implemented to ensure patient safety.
- Be bold in your messaging. Given patient reluctance to visit their healthcare providers, communicating a concise and direct message to ensure patients are aware of the negative potential of their delay in care can have strong impact. People are looking for some relief from the seriousness of the situation we’re in; a lighthearted, more humorous way to communicate may be bold and especially impactful in today’s environment.
- Balance COVID outreach with lead generation initiatives. Communicating COVID protocols for primary and urgent care is necessary right now; however, do not abandon efforts surrounding elective and specialty procedures. Those patients considering nonessential care might not be ready for an in-office visit but you can engage with them now to fill your prospect pool for the near future. Consider hosting informative webinars, providing downloadable guides or conducting online HRAs to connect with these prospects.
- Look beyond your traditional methods of communication. Healthcare organizations should develop fully integrated approaches to reaching patients and caregivers, using owned, earned and paid media opportunities to forge connections. Owned properties can personalize your presence in social media and email, while earned media can position your organization as a thought leader. (Consider participating in relevant COVID segments with news stations or connecting with local officials as an expert source.) A paid media campaign can extend your reach more broadly to both those who are actively seeking care or are qualified prospects for care. A holistic approach to your outreach will increase frequency and recall thus paving the way for greater recognition and preference for your brand.
Healthcare providers are arguably the best equipped to provide a safe environment as we navigate the new normal. While the new protocols will not differentiate you from your competition, how you deliver your message can: Be engaging and bold, strike the right balance between COVID communication and lead generation, and take a fully integrated approach to reach prospects and patients—and you’ll soon see more of each in your practice.
For more strategies on conquering the “fear factor,” contact us.