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The Journey of 1,000 Miles

As our communities reopen and hospitals resume elective surgeries, there are hopeful signals for our nation and our industry. But optimism is tempered, and rightly so. The death toll due to COVID-19 in the U.S. has surpassed 100,000. Consumers are polarized in their views of returning to their everyday activities. And, hospitals are seeing mixed results in terms of consumer sentiment in returning to hospitals and providers for treatments. In fact, a recent national study by ReviveHealth revealed that 53% of consumers would delay the surgery or treatment they need for two months or longer after hospitals reopen.

The outlook of financial leaders in hospitals also provides a sobering picture. A recent survey by HFMA found that half of the 174 hospital and health system executives surveyed felt it would take through the end of the year or longer to see elective procedure volumes return to pre-coronavirus levels.

All of this suggests that recovery for our industry may not be as rapid as we’ve hoped.

As marketers and communicators, there has never been a more urgent time for our skills. The health and lives of patients are at stake, and we play a large part in making them feel comfortable enough to seek the care that they have delayed. And with two-thirds of hospital and health system executives saying that growing core service lines is a top tactic to grow revenue coming out of COVID-19, we have a shining opportunity. We can SHOW how marketing drives volume for priority, high-margin services by keeping our foot on the gas with deliberate marketing plans throughout the summer, fall, and for as long as necessary in order to hit the patient volumes needed.

Many of our clients have asked us for advice on where to start. While there is a big task ahead, the good news is that it starts with going back to the fundamentals:

  1. Consumer Targeting — Align with operational and clinical leaders to understand service line and procedure level ramp-up, pacing, and capacity across system facilities. Use reopening plans to understand the right consumers to target in support of our high priority service lines. Develop detailed audience profiles to prioritize and fuel targeted marketing strategies for patient retention and acquisition activities. Stay close to operational progress so that you can adjust as capacity expands or contracts. Be a connected and nimble partner.

 

  1. Multichannel Consumer Acquisition Campaigns — Reset everything for priority service line campaigns to align to new operational realities. Ask yourself: How do you address your service line ads/creative, website, and landing pages for the new messages and content needed, such as not delaying care and the unique changes associated with a specific service line? How should your channel mix change? What’s the impact on target geographies based on new opportunities in your market? How do you adapt SEM keywords to changes in services as you ramp up? How can CTAs change to include things like telehealth consultations? How do you rightly size your media plan and budget to your organizational capacity? What adjustments to tracking and reporting are required so that you can optimize your campaigns based on results, and also show your organization the value you’re driving?

 

  1. Physician Engagement — The majority of surgical procedures originate from physician referrals, so protecting and expanding relationships is critical for Rapid Recovery. Most systems have been working hard to make sure referring physicians understand operational status, changes, and reopening priorities. Continuing with transparent and open communication remains crucial. While there are many layers of referring physician engagements to revisit, it once again starts with the fundamentals. Ask yourself: What did referral patterns look like pre-COVID-19? How might market conditions change and create new opportunities? Do you have a reopening advantage compared to competitors that’s worth exploiting? If you don’t have responsibility for referring physician engagement, how do you align with and support your physician relations team in their work?

 

This likely feels overwhelming — and the truth is, the few things mentioned here are just a start, because it’s frankly time to revisit just about everything we do. And while it may sound corny, there’s a wise old saying that may help. “The journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step.” Because while there IS a lot to do, you have to start with that first initial step.

 

June 9, 2020
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