Weekly Comms Report — July 15, 2020
COVID-19 has profoundly impacted providers and the healthcare system unlike any other crisis in our lifetime. But we believe that marketing and communication leaders who see this time as a strategic inflection point will be best equipped to advance their institutions going forward.
It's not going to be easy, especially considering the increasing frequency of delayed care and states halting elective surgeries for a second time. However, the advantage as we emerge from these challenging times will be awarded to those who focus on rebuilding — not just recovery. These leaders will create a new future and make it work in their unique market — financially, clinically, operationally, and brand-wise. Far before the rest, they will position themselves to leverage this time to work on their positioning, hone in on a new competitive front, and weigh key decisions on the most pressing issues facing the industry.
Communicating about COVID-19
1. Reporting COVID-19 transmissions within hospitals.
What we’re hearing: Hospitals are reporting difficulties in trying to contain the spread of COVID-19 within their walls. From May 14 to June 21, the CDC reported over 5,000 patient-to-patient transmitted COVID-19 cases in hospitals nationwide. Add in the positive cases of front-line workers and those asymptomatic or unreported, and that number is likely significantly higher.
Communications takeaway: The increase in hospital transmissions requires thoughtful scenario planning on how a health system would respond if widespread transmissions appeared across a care facility. It's also critical to be clear to patients, families, and communities about the measures the system is taking to manage these internal risks. As the COVID-19 crisis enters its fifth month, it may be tempting to reduce communication frequency about updated policies. But given the ongoing public attention and persistent fears, it is critical that health systems over-communicate both internally and externally to build and maintain trust among key audiences.
2. Communicating the impacts of delayed care.
What we’re hearing: As many clinical leaders and experts in the industry predicted, we are starting to see the inevitable impact of patients’ delayed care due to fears of COVID-19. Patients coming to health systems are arriving sicker, with more advanced ailments than they otherwise would have (had they sought care earlier). With additional shutdowns occurring in regions across the U.S., experts are concerned that the frequency and consequences of delayed care will only worsen.
Communications takeaway: Health systems must continue to communicate the precautions in place to ensure the safety of patients and emphasize their services that are still open. Consider using physician leadership and prominent community members to help the public visualize what they can expect when seeking care during this time. Interactive guides may also ease fears of returning to the hospital and can be used to inform patients of the dangers of delayed care. Publicly communicating these risks through different media outlets will be critical to ensuring the wellbeing of the communities you serve.
3. Translating data to empower the public.
What we’re hearing: Fearing the pandemic and longing to return to some kind of normalcy aren't mutually exclusive. As we see varying degrees and phases of reopening and inconsistent mandates at the national level, the different information and mixed messages swirling around can be confusing for the general public, ultimately making it difficult for them to accurately assess the risks of their social decisions.
Communications takeaway: Community outreach about risks and recommendations on how to safely go out in public should be straight forward and not exacerbate any existing confusion. Even further, health systems and public health officials have an opportunity to empower their communities by sharing accurate data to help them make informed decisions. Consider utilizing existing tools, such as this one, to communicate to your audience.