What Your Patients Want Right Now

What Your Patients Want Right Now

This just in from Hailey Sault’s latest national research study, released December 10, on what consumers are thinking about and wanting from health systems and providers: The number of patients actively contemplating new providers is staggering. 

The good news: there are things marketers can do to help people right now, while also helping their organizations’ bottom lines in the long run. Feeling too overwhelmed as it is? We understand. But you also need to understand your audience. If you’re as interested in the question, “What do patients want right now?” as we are, you’ll want to check out our latest Campfire. 

Hailey Sault hosts, Mike Seyfer and Stephen Moegling, share the latest results of our consumer research and offer actionable insights for you to get rolling. 

Watch our 45-minute Campfire Session, “What Your Patients Want: Patient Engagement Trends,” that was broadcast live on 12.10.20, for the full effect. An abbreviated recap follows.

Here’s a brief synopsis of what Stephen and Mike cover in the Campfire. 

Topics 

  • Why patient engagement should be a top priority
  • What your patients want to hear from you now
  • When vaccination content is going to be valuable
  • How to measuring engagement in meaningful ways

During the show, our hosts introduce ideas that may be counterintuitive to what some health care marketers are thinking right now. With that mind, Mike took the role of being in the Hot Seat, with Stephen acting as The Skeptic.  

Background

It’s a crazy time to simply provide care. Why should we be paying extra attention to what people think about health care right now? Well, this pandemic crisis will eventually subside. But unless we apply insights on how consumers want health brands to engage with them right now, we risk creating a new crisis for our organizations: patients switching to new providers. 

That point was driven home during a recent Campfire Session with Chris Hemphill of SymphonyRM, who helped us crunch some numbers and explore strategies surrounding patient loyalty and engagement. From there, we set about doing a survey of 700 people in the United States to discover what people were thinking about engaging with, and being engaged by, their health provider. 

Download the research report featured at the Campfire: no opt-in required. We want our colleagues to have the data and insights needed to make informed marketing decisions.

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Key takeaways 

Here’s a taste of the findings we shared at the Campfire. 

1. Why make engagement a priority? 

Consumers are still scared, concerned and, it turns out, increasingly disengaged from their providers. Less than 50% of consumers believe their providers have engaged with them since the pandemic. When consumers feel disengaged from health brands, they begin looking for new providers. 

As a marketing and public relations focus, patient engagement has typically been considered a soft metric, handled less informally or with less rigorous goals and intent, Mike notes. But the longer you wait to have an engagement strategy, the greater the risk of churn.

That is, as COVID rages on, your risk of patient out-migration, or “churn,” during COVID increases in equal proportion to the lack of engagement they experience. Driving up patient engagement so that you can reduce churn is key to ensuring future revenue.

Depending on your market and COVID-19 case counts, your organization might not have capacity to develop new patient acquisition strategies. But 31% of consumers are thinking about switching providers. And of those consumers who feel “disengaged,” 46% are likely considering making a provider switch.

2. What do patients want to hear from you?

People want excellence, but they also want to feel compassion, and experience transparency. 

A resonant engagement strategy will strike a balance between compassionate care and COVID information. Compassionate care is a big trigger for patients choosing to switch. At the same time, they want new COVID information, especially regarding testing, from a local trusted source.

Messaging matters. In the study, the words “compassion” and “care” showed up in 20 percent of open-ended responses. Learn more. 

3. How to measure engagement more meaningfully?

What are the preferred communications channels that consumers want you to use to engage them?  The study showed that people value personalized channels, including these top three preferred methods of engaging with health care providers: 

  • Phone 
  • Email 
  • Texting 

While scoring lower as primary channels, these channels shouldn’t be ignored as consumer engagement metrics: 

  • Website metrics 
  • Digital marketing metrics 
  • Organic social media metrics

You can still measure based on your owned media channels, and continue to improve the patient experience of using them. In fact, the largest percent of study respondents said they’d respond to engagement efforts by going to a website and subscribing to get more information. 

Email offers a particularly notable “workhorse” for reaching out and engaging with patients, Mike and Stephen note at the Campfire. Beyond sharing public health information, organizations can use email to target audiences who need specific service line care, while creating connection points with your owned digital channels.

4. When is vaccination content going to be valuable? 

Right now. During the S’Mores Break at the end of the Campfire, we discussed a recent Transcend Strategy Group study, and noted how interest in vaccination information has made its way into our research for the first time. People want to know when, how and where they can get vaccinated. There will be a race in your community to provide vaccines, and those who communicate the details around it effectively may gain new patients.

Join our next Campfire

We started the Campfire webinars in the early days of COVID-19 so colleagues could discuss the issues and opportunities impacting health care marketers. That was when we thought COVID-19 would be “here today, gone tomorrow.” Clearly, there’s still a lot to discuss. Join us and your colleagues for an upcoming session soon. 

Click the link below to view past Campfires and to be notified of future Campfires.

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Vaccines, “COVID Brain,” and the Path Back to Care

Vaccines, “COVID Brain,” and the Path Back to Care

The new COVID vaccines are medical miracles. But are your patients ready to take them? Overcoming fears and building engagement will be key in convincing the diverse populations you serve to roll up their sleeves for the good of their own health, as well as the health of those in their community. Misinformation, myths, distrust, doubt, resistance and political polarization are only a few of the many challenges that need to be overcome on the road back to normal. We discussed them all.

Watch our Campfire Session, Vaccines, “COVID Brain,” and the Path Back to Care. Or read below for key takeaways from our webinar event!

On 12/17/2020, Stephen, Mike and I were joined by: 

  • Three-peat Campfire participant Lisa McCluskey, MBA, Vice President, Marketing Communications, CHI Memorial 
  • Newcomer, Rob Klein, Klein & Partners, health care marketing research and brand management specialist.

We discussed:

  • Vaccine rollout strategies
  • New research about the public’s perceptions of the vaccine
  • Engaging health care consumers who are fatigued and afraid 
  • What we do now determines what happens next 

Lisa’s COVID Vaccine Communication Playbook

Lisa told us what was happening at CHI Memorial, in Tennessee. As of the publishing of this blog, Tennessee is the number one COVID hotspot per capita in the country. She explained how her organization was coping and how it was able to care for patients (COVID and non-COVID) effectively even at 90 percent capacity.

Then she laid out the comprehensive vaccine communication plan CHI has in place, which we immediately dubbed “Lisa’s Vaccine Communication Playbook.” 

For those who didn’t take notes, highlights include:

  • Continuing to commit to being the trusted source of information about all things COVID.
  • Dispelling myths on an ongoing (24 hour a day, 7 day a week) basis.
  • Being comfortable in communicating in probabilities—letting people know this is what we know today and that may change tomorrow. 
  • Implementing a vaccine webpage to act as an information hub.
  • Producing COVID information and COVID vaccine videos for staff. 
  • Using staff questions to produce a “frequently asked questions” video for the general public featuring its vice president of medical affairs.
  • Keeping an ear to the ground and watching social media for chatter to determine what the public is thinking and wants to know. 
  • Sending email blasts, direct emails and texts to patients providing answers to frequently asked questions, as well as targeting patients on Facebook.
  • Posting FAQ videos in the comment section of local news outlet’s social media channels resulting in an ask to do a weekly live TV series.
  • Providing FAQ flyers to clinics and providers to share with patients.
  • Daily COVID updates for staff and physicians.
  • Providing an email where the public can ask questions, which are answered ASAP.
  • Using all channels to direct people back to the CHI Memorial COVID vaccine page.

Rob’s National Consumer Perception Research

Rob had just completed national research on the public’s perception of the COVID vaccine and we were lucky enough to be the first to hear his key findings. 

He started by telling us,

“This is not going to be an easy smooth road where everybody is lining up at once and wants to have a vaccine. We are going to have to work harder than we thought.”

Some of the data Rob shared included:

Only 39% of those surveyed said, “I’m very likely to get a vaccine.” 

That means 6 out of 10 American adults are not so sure that they are going to get the vaccine.

What’s most concerning about this is the demographic differences. These differences are important because they will impact messaging. A one-size-fits-all message is not going to work:

  • Men are significantly more likely than women to say that they are very likely to get a vaccine.
  • The likelihood to get a vaccine goes up with age. Gen-Z and millennials report that they are less likely to have a vaccine when it becomes available to them than baby boomers and the silent generation.
  • African American people are significantly less likely to get a vaccine. Only 19% said they were very likely to get the vaccine when it becomes available.
  • Many people indicated that they wanted to wait to see what happens to others. They are afraid of side effects.
  • People think the vaccine was rushed. The words “rushed” and “warp speed” are stuck in their brains.

“It is on us [health care] and the federal government to make sure everyone feels included and respected and that their concerns are addressed,” said Rob. “We have to reach people where they are and address their concerns. The empathy we have to show human beings has never been more important than right now.”

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Politics and the Vaccine

Rob told us the most disappointing results of his research indicate that there is a huge difference in the likelihood to get the vaccine based on political affiliation.

The lesson Rob says he hopes are taken away from this are:

“Words can heal and unite. Words can divide and hurt. There has been a division here that is not needed. We’re all in this together against this bug. The fact that the biggest significant difference between getting the vaccine and not is political affiliation—that shouldn’t have been.”

Research Finds that Primary Care Providers are the #1 Influencing Factor in Whether People Will Vaccinate or Not

  • Your physicians are the face and voice of your brand.
  • Give them talking points. 
  • Coach them as to how to talk with patients individually, knowing each patient has  different concerns and unique needs, depending on their sex, age or ethnicity.
  • People want to know what shot their primary care physician is getting.

What is COVID Brain?

A term coined by Rob to describe our patient’s mindset right now. People’s cognitive reasoning is affected by their fears and their anxiety level.  

Both Lisa and Rob addressed the fact that as people see others getting the vaccine and not suffering side effects they will most likely become more willing to roll their sleeves up for a vaccine as well.

Lisa explained that CHI has used their videos to: 

  1. Address side effects and dispel rumors that the vaccine was rushed or that it messes with a person’s genetic code. 
  2. Message in a manner that is conversational and understandable.

“The more we can put out there about how the vaccine works in layman’s language, the more it helps people to make the decision to vaccinate,” says Lisa. 

You can see CHI’s videos here.

What We Do Now Determines What Happens Next 

“We never stopped marketing and advertising,” says Lisa. “We always had an underpinning of safety messaging going as well.”

Lisa pointed out that the need continues to:

  • Support new providers. 
  • Support programs such as oncology and vascular services.
  • Make sure patients receive the services they need before they become too sick.

“Even though the vaccine is out there it will be late spring or early summer before it gets to the consumer,” says Lisa. “We still need to make sure that patients know how we are safely operating. So that safety underpinning will continue as we drive people to get their mammograms and encourage people to keep their doctor’s appointments.” 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Your patients are looking to you to be their trusted COVID and COVID vaccine authority.
  • Be that trusted authority by implementing some of the strategies covered in Lisa’s COVID Vaccination Playbook.
  • Your primary care physicians are your best messengers.
  • Research shows that this is not going to be an easy smooth road where everybody is lining up at once and wants to have a vaccine. We are going to have to work harder than we thought. 
  • We must reach people where they are and address their concerns. 
  • The empathy we have to show human beings has never been more important than right now.
  • What we do now will determine what comes next.

Join Us for Our Next Campfire Session

We host these Campfire Sessions to discuss the issues and opportunities facing health care marketers. These are webinars without boring slides, bullet points, and sales pitches—just great insights shared by and for our marketing colleagues. We hope you’ll join us around the virtual Campfire.

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Why Your Patients May Be Leaving Your Brand. (And What To Do About It)

Why Your Patients May Be Leaving Your Brand. (And What To Do About It)

Since 2014, Hailey Sault has conducted several research projects surrounding patient choice. With each study, our results indicate that patients are more willing to switch providers based on a set of defined characteristics. This year, if trends hold, around 28 percent of patient populations may be looking for a new provider.

During this COVID time, we’ve also been polling patients around the country about  what they want to hear and how often they want to hear from their providers. Overwhelmingly, they’ve told us that they are hungry for content and guidance right now and are looking to their health care providers to provide it.  

Our newest polling project is centered around patient engagement and we are excited to share those results with you in the near future.

Watch our Campfire Session, Why Your Patients May Be Leaving Your Brand (And What To Do About It). Or read below for key takeaways from our webinar event!

On 11/19/2020, Mike and I welcomed Chris Hemphill, Director–Client AI/Ops SymphonyRM, who helped us crunch some numbers and explore strategies surrounding patient loyalty and engagement.

We discussed:

  • Patient “churn”—exiting the health system—and how to predict it
  • Common reasons for patient churn
  • Revenue implications
  • Patient retention and engagement strategies

For context, here’s a little background on Chris

Chris works in the areas of data science and analytics for SymphonyRM. He explained that his company is focused on using AI and predictive modeling to inform patient engagement and move patient relationships forward. 

Chris also explained:

“It’s not just about predictions and data science. It’s how we all work together to make those things actionable, to develop creative and to develop outreach that ultimately influences behaviors.

I think the era we’re entering now is less about the technology and more about how do we use those things to drive engagement and further relationships.”

Defining patient churn and its revenue implications

  • “If you boil it down,” says Chris, “patient churn is really about predictability, a likelihood that someone is going to leave and no longer be engaged with your organization.”
  • With definable characteristics you can start to identify what is a patient’s churn risk.
  • Chris took us through the potential revenue implications of patient churn in a 12-month period, focusing on tiers that included patients who are: loyal, engaged, a risk, fading, and finally, disengaged.
  • His model included the churn risk for each patient category ranging from a four percent risk for those who are loyal to a 93 percent risk for those who are disengaged.
  • A quote from one of his colleagues is appropriate here: “Your existing patients are your competitors’ new patients.”

How do you decide who is engaged and who is at risk?

  • Many organizations use 24 months of inactivity as an indicator that their consumer has churned.
  • “The problem with that,” says Chris, “is that if you’re waiting until that period is terminated to start recapturing consumers, it is far too late.”
  • Chris has seen more aggressive organizations use an 18-month time period before efforts begin, but says the same concept holds true—it may be too late.
  • Instead, Chris recommends a more personalized approach to deciding who is at risk and engaging those individuals in a timely manner. The idea is to use data to identify frequency of use for an individual, as well as when that individual may become a churn risk.
  • Mike added that the idea of getting to something that is personalized is very difficult for organizations. “It comes down to time, resources and technologies,” says Mike.
  • A discussion took place about the fact we’ve known from research that patients want communication from their provider and that they trust that communication. 
  • Chris cited research by SymphonyRM that found patients are around 1.7 times more likely to click through to an email message if the sender is their physician as opposed to the health care organization.
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Predicting churn

1. Chris brought us through relationships that individuals have with brands, including contractual and non-contractual relationships, as well as discrete (something happening on a fixed basis) vs. continuous (something that can happen at any time) relationships.

2. Non-contractual, continuous relationships, such as health care, are the hardest industries in which to predict churn.

  • There is no hard contract cutoff date
  • No predicted fixed interactions

3. Predicting churn is based on interactions and the predictability of those interactions for the individual. 

  • Someone who interacts in a consistent and maybe less-frequent manner is at a lower risk for churn because an expected pattern of interaction has been established. 
  • Someone who may interact more frequently but then drops off in consistency, or drops off completely, is at higher risk for churn. No expected pattern has been established.

The real cost of losing patients

  • According to Chris, once people move away and develop loyalties to other organizations, it can cost between five to seven times more to engage them and get them back.
  • There is a continued effort by us as marketers to stay ahead of the curve. Chris validated what we know intuitively in marketing, which is: if we don’t have the messages out there and we don’t have the engagement strategies out there, ultimately, we’re not going to get the result we want—whether that’s a retention strategy or a grateful advocate patient strategy. It is a clear win-win when we can be proactive.

Engagement strategies

  • Mike talked about the need right now to focus on the engaged patient. 
  • “In this period of COVID they may not be getting care, yet engagement strategies for this particular group need to remain high. This is the group that we can probably affect most in terms of retention.”
  • What we are seeing coming from our Hailey Sault research is that somewhere in the neighborhood of 93 percent of consumers want to hear from their provider on a very consistent basis right now—once a week to even once a day.
  • Even if the message isn’t “Come in for care,” patients want to hear what their provider knows about COVID in their area. That message can be imparted with the secondary message being, “By the way, if you do come in for care you are going to be safe.”
  • Chris told us that the health care organization does remain the most trusted institution when it comes to health care information, making health care professionals and patient engagement professionals one of the first lines of defense against bad information people are getting from other sources.
  • Chris also explained that at the beginning of the COVID crisis a lot of organizations were conservative with their messaging while others aggressively messaged on even more channels than usual. “Even though people weren’t able to come in for services, they were extremely engaged with the communication.”
  • “It points to when a major crisis like this happens, people start looking to those trusted institutions such as health care,” says Chris.
  • When organizations don’t take an active approach there is a void and that void will be filled somehow, either by patient choice, by the competition or by forces outside of our control. As the ground keeps shifting, we must lean into the idea of engagement.
  • Chris pointed out that some institutions have adopted an “always on” strategy as opposed to going from “one off” to “one off” campaigns that target specific segments of the population. The first broad stroke against disengagement right now may be to consider how to reach as much of the population as possible with personalized communication to scale.
  • A way to accomplish that can be through the creative use of owned channels and content that resonates with where people are right now.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Patient churn is really about predictability, a likelihood that someone is going to leave and no longer be engaged with your organization. 

2. With definable characteristics you can start to identify a patient’s churn risk.

3. The idea is to use data to identify frequency of use for an individual, as well as when that individual may become a churn risk.

4. Health care is one of the hardest industries in which to predict churn.

  • There is no hard contract cutoff date
  • No predicted fixed interactions

5. “Your existing patients are your competitors’ new patients.”

6. Once people move away and develop loyalties to other organizations, it can cost between five to seven times more to engage them and get them back.

7. The engaged patient group is the group that we can probably affect the most in terms of retention. In this period of COVID, engagement strategies for this particular group need to remain high.

Join Us for Our Next Campfire Session

We started the Campfire webinars in the early days of COVID-19 so colleagues could discuss the issues and opportunities impacting health care marketers. That was when we thought COVID-19 would be “here today, gone tomorrow.” Clearly, there’s still a lot to discuss. Join us and your colleagues for an upcoming fun and informative session soon. Click the link below to view past Campfires and to be notified of future Campfires.

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Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity: 15 minutes about how to take action

Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity: 15 minutes about how to take action

At Hailey Sault, we believe in better. It is our purpose.

Part of believing in better is an absolute belief that health care is a right—that no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you make, you have the right to care that will allow you to live your healthiest life.

During a recent Campfire webinar session we had the opportunity to discuss the topics of diversity, inclusion and health equity—topics we believe are so important to the health of all people that we pulled that discussion out to share here.

In this almost 15 minutes of video, our guests discuss concrete actions health care organizations—and we as communicators and marketers—can take to begin making health care more equitable for all.

Joining us were:

  • Toni Midderhoff Miller, Director of Brand Marketing, NorthShore University HealthSystem
  • Carl Maronich, Marketing Director, Riverside Healthcare

The incredible thoughts and insights shared by both Toni and Carl are best summed up in the following quotes:

It starts with talking (and listening)

“The most important thing is first of all to talk,” said Toni. “We need to talk and listen.”

“That is one of the overriding issues today in America, is the inability or unwillingness to listen to what’s going on out there,” said Carl. “People think they already know, so they don’t need to listen.”

Learn more about your community

“Learn more about who is in your community,” said Toni. “You’re serving a community and if your community is 50 percent of color and not of color, or 75 percent, whatever that is, whoever those individuals are—are you doing enough to understand what they need?” 

“We know there are certain things that run consistently with ethnicity—diabetes, heart disease, comorbidities—and different things for African Americans than Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans,” said Toni. “So know what that is in your community. Understand how it impacts that community and how they socialize it.”

Build relationships

“Sometimes people forget that there is a negative connotation [to health care] with some ethnicities, based on historic experience,” said Toni. “You have to understand that there is a relationship that has to be built in these communities because the historical relationships have not been there.”

Be relevant

“The information needs to be relevant, it needs to be adapted to what is important to them,” said Toni. “How they look at it and speak to it, which may not be how mainstream America does it.”

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Where does your organization stand on diversity, inclusion, health equity and social justice?

“The things we’ve seen in the last six to eight months in the country should wake us up to the need to reexamine where we are on this topic. Health care as an  organization—any organization, that size with that much longevity—systematic racism is part of that,” said Carl. “I don’t think that can be denied. So how do we look at our own part in the overall health care continuum and world and see where we can check in with our own organization.”

Toni explained that the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at her organization is conducting a listening tour to understand the systemic racism issues they may not even be aware of. “A lot of questions come up around—’I don’t know how to have that conversation, or start to understand how to have that conversation, when you are a person not of color.’”

What about your employees?

“The other important thing is on the employees’ side,” said Carl. “What is your makeup from an employee standpoint? And how are you addressing their needs and how are you making opportunities available?”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Begin talking

2. Listen … listen … listen

3. Learn

4. Then take action

Join Us for Our Next Campfire Session

We started the Campfire webinars in the early days of COVID-19 so colleagues could discuss the issues and opportunities impacting health care marketers. That was when we thought COVID-19 would be “here today, gone tomorrow.” Clearly, there’s still a lot to discuss. Join us and your colleagues for an upcoming fun and informative session soon. Click the link below to view past Campfires and to be notified of future Campfires.

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The Next New Normal in Health Care Marketing

The Next New Normal in Health Care Marketing

Thanks to this pandemic, the next new normal in health care marketing is a constantly evolving, constantly moving target. But that’s not all bad. We (meaning all of us in the health care marketing business) have been forced to continually pivot, to think in new ways, to be more creative than we’ve probably ever been, to meet challenges head-on and to accept change whether we like it or not. It’s opened up new avenues of collaboration throughout health care systems and it’s created opportunities to connect with patients on a much more human level.

Watch our Campfire Session, The Next Normal in Health Care Marketing. Or read below for key takeaways from our webinar event!

On 10/22/2020, Steven and I welcomed back, for a second time, two Campfire guests we admire: 

  • Toni Midderhoff Miller, Director of Brand Marketing, NorthShore University HealthSystem
  • Carl Maronich, Marketing Director, Riverside Healthcare

We had a captivating discussion around:

  • Business recovery
  • Changes in patient attitudes, preferences and care journeys—and why it matters
  • Planning challenges
  • Leading during the pandemic
  • Diversity and inclusion

Business recovery and community needs

  • Carl and Toni told us that business recovery—and the return of patients to most areas of care—is moving faster than expected, especially in areas where patients may be experiencing pain that they are no longer able to manage, like the hip and knee pain associated with joint replacement.
  • More good news: Carl told us that women who put off their mammograms during the early days of COVID are rescheduling their screenings.
  • Both Carl and Toni say their organizations are focusing on heart care right now. Both found that a lot of folks were terrified to come in for care during the beginning months of the pandemic.
  • “We noticed that the number of people coming in for heart attacks and heart related issues had dropped dramatically,” said Toni. “So we knew we had a lot of unfortunate fatalities as a result. So that is one of our key focus areas.”
  • “Our primary focus is really business recovery from the standpoint of which are the most critical things that are going to help make our patients safe?” said Toni. “What are the community’s needs? And then, how are we going to make sure that we are going to keep those individuals safe once they come into our facility?”  

Your changing patients

  • The way many patients access care has changed. NorthShore University HealthSystem and Riverside Healthcare both implemented telehealth during COVID and are continuing to provide that service for their patients. 
  • “One of the things this experience has created for our patients is some access points that they’re not going to want to see go away if we ever get to post- COVID,” said Carl. “Video visits are very convenient and so no matter the world circumstance, people are going to still want video visits.”
  • The whole emphasis on access and ease of access and making things as easy for patients as possible is something Carl says his organization is making a high priority.
  • “People don’t hold us up to a standard of other health care organizations,” said Carl. “They hold us up to the standard of all organizations. They want us to be as convenient as anybody, not just as the other hospital down the road. So we’ve got to take those consumer needs and expectations into mind as we go forward.”
  • Toni shared that she read that telehealth has probably moved health care forward a decade.
  • “We were all immersed in—how do you do the insurance? What is the risk?—And trying to understand all those components,” said Toni. “And immediately COVID went, ‘Those are irrelevant, you need to care for patients.’”
  • Toni also mentioned that having to wait in a waiting room may become a thing of the past. She told a story about waiting in her car for her most recent appointment and how it gave her a moment to think. She feels this may become something patients appreciate.
  • “That personal kind of feeling that they are taking care of me is being displayed and is showing up in a new way,” said Toni.
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How patients are feeling right now

I asked Carl and Toni what they thought patients were feeling right now, seven months into this pandemic—amid a spike in COVID cases.

  • “They are not only patients, they are people,” said Carl. “So their frustration level is increasing as the restrictions come and go. All those frustrations build and now they are having to deal with their health care institution. They want things to be as simple as possible. So I think we need to be expressing even more humanity now than we ever have.”
  • “In addition to the frustration Carl identified are two other things,” said Toni. “One being a weariness around not having the knowledge and the understanding of when this will change. The second is this interesting reliance on health care partners. People are looking for us to help them. We’ve gained their trust over these seven or eight months.” 
  • “People are constantly aware of their health care now,” said Toni. “‘What is the latest news? Are there new symptoms I should be aware of? Is there something else that is happening?’ And they are looking to health organizations in a very different way than before to help them navigate that space.”

An aside: Your human staff

There was a wonderful discussion around communicating with your health care organization’s staff, the stress that is being felt, the sadness surrounding furloughs, and the need to acknowledge the superhuman efforts that are being made at this time.

Planning challenges

Stephen asked about the challenges and opportunities Toni and Carl and their teams are experiencing during strategic planning for 2021.

Toni’s fiscal year started October 1. So planning started in March when everything was shutting down. She was turning off media and reworking plans surrounding 120 or so community events on the docket at the time. She also had the challenge of her team working remotely through the entire planning process. For Toni, planning involved questions that included:

  • What will the consumer mindset be?
  • What will they need versus what we have to offer?
  • What areas might emerge as a result of the pandemic?

Carl is in the midst of planning; he said his team is concerned about:

  • The budget and how to do more with less.
  • Keeping their eye on how the world of COVID is going and how it will impact how they message to the public going forward.
  • Making sure they are encouraging people to take care of themselves and get in for the care they need when they need it.

Both Toni and Carl talked about the challenge of combining big-picture brand messaging with service line messaging, right now. Carl reminded us:

“Back to the humanity for things—the patient doesn’t care if you’re an ortho person or a neuro person or a cardiac person. They want to be serviced the same way all the way through and to have a consistent patient experience. That was a challenge ten years ago, twenty years ago and it continues to be, and maybe more so now.”

Leading during a pandemic

I asked Toni and Carl what they’ve learned through this time and what they will take with them moving forward. They told us about the importance of:

  • Keeping human connections between colleagues alive.
  • Being careful not to make meetings simply transactional as you work remotely—fostering a feeling of care about what is happening in everyone’s life.
  • With everything happening so fast during this time, Toni likes to say we’re actually running on the bridge as we are trying to build it—so being aware of the toll that can take.
  • The importance of bringing the fun or the happy.
  • Maintaining the unique culture developed with colleagues.
  • The need to be flexible, especially with colleagues who have young kids at home.

Diversity and inclusion

  • In June, NorthShore University HealthSystem, along with other Chicago health care organizations, issued a joint statement to work together to overcome systemic racism and the health care disparities it creates.
  • Toni and Carl shared their thoughts about the importance of diversity, inclusion and health equity with us, in the aftershow—S’mores Break—of our Campfire. 
  • This topic felt so fundamentally essential to us that we highly encourage you to watch this part of the Campfire and find out what we can do as health care communicators.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Right now business recovery has to be tied to what the communities we serve need and how we can keep individuals in our communities healthy and safe.

2. Telehealth and other patient conveniences are probably here to stay.

3. Patients have developed a new interest in health care and a new trust in us. They are also frustrated, weary and looking to us for answers.

4. We need to be expressing even more humanity now than we ever have.

5. Planning challenges include doing more with less and keeping an eye on how the world of COVID impacts our messaging.

6. Leading through this pandemic means bringing joy, connection, fun and flexibility into the work space whether that work space is remote or in person.

Join Us for Our Next Campfire Session

We started the Campfire webinars in the early days of COVID-19 so colleagues could discuss the issues and opportunities impacting health care marketers. That was when we thought COVID-19 would be “here today, gone tomorrow.” Clearly, there’s still a lot to discuss. Join us and your colleagues for an upcoming fun and informative session soon. Click the link below to view past Campfires and to be notified of future Campfires.

[PAST CAMPFIRES]

Mankato Recovery Campaign info