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. 

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