What health tech leaders can do in the midst of COVID-19

While our healthcare system rushes to address the rising COVID-19 pandemic, traditional models and business arrangements are being upended. Digital health solutions in virtual care are experiencing a surge that may reshape consumer healthcare expectations, yet the question remains: what does this mean more broadly for the health tech ecosystem?

We’re in the trenches with our hospital and health systems clients and our health tech and services clients alike. For all you digital health leaders out there, here’s what we’re seeing.

The Challenges

This year will spur a remaking of our national healthcare model.  Hospital operations and finances are being upended as elective surgeries — which often keep the lights on — are canceled in the midst of the need to increase staff, supplies, and even construction. Health plans are already anticipating a massive spike in premiums in 2021 if the government doesn’t help cover costs for testing and treatment. Some regulatory agencies have offered temporary relief (including the waiving of certain Medicare telehealth payment requirements and the easing of state licensure requirements for providers), which may or may not carry into the post-COVID-19 era. All of this will play into an already contentious election-year discussion around single payer and Medicare reimbursement models.

For many B2B health tech companies, this presents immediate challenges. For venture-backed organizations, valuation is at risk and funding rounds may be delayed. There are pressing questions about what can be done to help — often pro bono — in this time of need. Many are questioning whether it’s even appropriate to continue marketing to overloaded hospital and health plan buying audiences.

What to Do

The stakes are high for all. As health tech companies navigate this environment, here’s where to place your marketing and communications focus.

  1. Turn your attention internal. The way you treat your people today will make or break you in the future, and companies who deliver quickly and authentically in internal communications are creating powerfully loyal brand ambassadors. Communicate consistently and with transparency, even if you don’t have all the answers. Reassure them when you can, but don’t hide the ball on difficult business decisions.
  2. Evaluate marketing and sales campaigns for relevancy and appropriateness. Now is not the time to heavily promote a new product offering or sales deal… unless, of course, it’s connected to COVID-19 itself. Pivot your approach to demonstrating value and support for your target audiences. Help reorient your sales team around ways your solution can help customers in the short-term, to build credibility for the long.
  3. Deliver in keeping with your brand. Revisit your company mission and consider it through the lens of COVID-19. If you have services that will help identify, treat, or otherwise address the pandemic in the short-term, offer them up to the industry. The actions you take today will leave a lasting impact.
  4. Communicate your value externally, but with the right tone. It’s easy to vacillate between extremes when it comes to external communications: either staying completely silent to avoid seeming opportunistic, or amplifying your services so aggressively that you come across as tone-deaf. The right answer is in authenticity. If you are helping solve real human and business issues in this difficult time, don’t be afraid to put it out there.
  5. Rethink the customer buyer journey. Hospitals and health plans will likely experience different stages during this crisis: going from chaos and uncertainty, to reality and realignment, to relief and refocusing. Make sure your messages are resonant to each stage, and as we get to the end, recognize that true recovery will be difficult for many. By anticipating these realities and showing empathy, you can demonstrate how your solution may ease the burden or accelerate the recovery.
  6. Look to the future. This will end, and the genie can’t be put back in the bottle: our healthcare system will be radically different afterward. Power dynamics will shift, consumers expectations will be remodeled, healthcare access points will adjust. Become a student of the transformation. Dive deep into the business issues facing your target audience. Show up, when the time is right, as a leader with a view on the value health tech can deliver in a new normal.

In the meantime, far more important than any of the above: stay safe. Stay healthy. Spend time with loved ones. Our world is being remade and we’ll weather it together.

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