With nearly one-third of Americans postponing care since March, many remain worried about visiting a hospital or physician’s office. Delaying care can create serious long-term health effects, not to mention higher health care costs. Encouraging patients to reschedule their visits is good for both their health and yours. Yet, how do you effectively communicate it is safe and prudent to return to your facility for care?
Start inside. Before you begin communicating with the public, make sure your front-line employees, medical staff, board members and other internal stakeholders understand your reopening plans and messages. Use virtual town halls, manager check-ins and other internal communication channels to engage team members and provide simple scripts or visuals to ensure everyone is sharing the same message with patients, referrers and community members. Keep teams updated timely with a text or IM campaign.
Target your messages. Most hospitals will reopen in phases, providing an opportunity to educate the community on your plans while targeting messaging and outreach to those most affected in each phase. Consider how you can coordinate with patient registration and physician office staff to reach relevant patient groups and update messaging based on patient interactions and feedback.
Don’t just say it — show it. Patients will feel more at ease returning to your facility if they believe it is clean and safe for them to do so. Be specific about your infection control measures and safety protocols to alleviate concerns. While it’s important to tell patients about your efforts, showing them what you are doing to protect their health can make a bigger impact. Post photos and videos of your cleaning routines or social distancing precautions on your website or social media channels to give patients a look at what to expect during their visit. Show off that bacteria-fighting robot if your hospital has one. And make sure advertising and marketing images show caregivers – and patients – in appropriate PPE.
Get creative. Marketing budgets may be tight right now, so think creatively. Email, social media and earned media opportunities can be executed at little to no cost while advertising, direct mail and sponsored content will require more marketing spend. Whatever approach you take, don’t be afraid to go back to basics and employ some tried and true grassroots tactics. Consider partnering with local not-for-profit organizations to reinforce the importance of preventive care. Host virtual community meetings to get the word out that your hospital is a safe place to receive care. Share those same messages with major employers and occupational medicine partners. Like you, they want their employees and members to actively manage their health and avoid costly episodes that can result from deferred prevention.
Assure your seniors. While virtually everyone – in the world – has reason for concern about this virus, seniors have the most to fear. Both their mortality risk from COVID-19 and their utilization of health care services is higher than other age groups. It’s crucial to remember they consume health care information very differently than younger age groups – and they rely heavily on their primary care providers. Make sure your employed and aligned providers have print information on hand to assure older patients about your hospital’s services and safety efforts. Consider using those same materials in patient mailings, at senior centers, as inserts in local newspapers and in other senior-friendly marketing and outreach efforts.