COVID-19 Updates

Weekly Comms Report — July 22, 2020

This week, we’re diving into recommendations that touch on an unfortunate but serious reality: U.S. COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing. Some call it a surge, some call it the second wave. Whatever you call it, it means more shutdowns and increased patient fears, making the health system marketer’s job ever more vital. In a recent interview with Modern Healthcare, ReviveHealth EVP and Health Systems Practice Lead, Chris Bevolo states:

"Leadership [has] recognized we desperately need marketing and communications to bring people back in."

Dig into the article above, the recommendations below, and tune into The No Normal Show tomorrow for additional insights on effectively leveraging marketing and communication efforts during these times.


Communicating about COVID-19

1. Staffing the Surge

What we’re hearing: Health systems in hotspot regions are struggling to meet staffing needs as COVID-19 cases surge. Some health systems are seeing challenges on two fronts:

  1. Existing clinicians are being recruited by other health systems in hotspots, lured primarily by higher pay.
  2. Competition is also increasing from staffing agencies trying to fill in the gaps at other systems.  

Communications takeaway: Crisis pay was introduced in April and May primarily as a way to alleviate employed clinicians’ criticisms of significant compensation differences between themselves and temporary/contracted clinicians brought in by staffing agencies. In the current environment, health system marketers must be proactive with effective internal communications and mental health support for their staff to boost morale and avoid anyone being lured away by higher pay. They also need t­­o be involved in conversations around crisis pay to weigh in on the internal and external reputational risks of any pay gaps.

2. Shutdown 2.0

What we’re hearing: Public health officials are beginning to limit elective procedures in some markets again as hospital capacity concerns increase given recent COVID-19 spikes. Some health systems are pushing against these additional shutdowns, claiming they have leveraged what they learned from March, April, and May and are now better prepared to handle a surge while continuing elective procedures. 

Communications takeaway: Shutdowns are tricky for health systems to navigate. On one hand, hospitals need to prepare for policymakers and public health officials to cease or limit elective procedures. This preparation must include a plan for how to communicate with confused or frustrated patients who are waiting for care or whose care is interrupted. On the other hand, if health systems feel they are prepared to balance COVID-19 patients with elective patients, they should be proactive in making their case with both policymakers and the media. This would include giving access to the media, demonstrating steps the system has taken to keep patients safe. If hospitals have learned enough from the initial crisis to handle the continued rise and fall of cases, while maintaining the provision of care to non-COVID-19 patients, they must ensure local officials are taking this into consideration as they weigh their decisions.

3. Back to School

What we’re hearing: More than 80% of colleges are reporting they will, in some form, be inviting college students back to campus in the coming weeks. However, many families are questioning whether campus health centers, who are notorious for poor quality of care and low accessibility, are prepared to handle students’ health during a pandemic.

Communications takeaway: Time is ticking, and soon enough students will be heading back to campus. AMCs and health systems in college communities have an opportunity to step up and help universities meet these rising challenges to improve overall care. With many universities still determining what level of testing to offer and the protocols for student exposure to COVID-19, health systems and AMCs can be a leader by providing a reopening roadmap for universities and campus health centers operating in their communities.