COVID-19 Updates

Weekly Comms Report — March 4, 2020

For hospitals and health systems, understanding the rapidly changing conversation surrounding the coronavirus situation is priority one. Thanks to ReviveHealth's partnership with Turbine Labs, we have a deep, real-time understanding of how consumers, the media, businesses, and government officials are talking about coronavirus, and what that means for how provider organizations communicate. Below are our latest recommendations based on the current state nationally, but ReviveHealth and Turbine Labs stand ready to provide you tailored local insights that inform your communications strategy.

Communicating about coronavirus

1.  Getting ahead of cost concerns

Due to concerns about not knowing what treatment will cost, consumers are indicating that they may not visit an urgent care, emergency department, or hospital, even if they believe they’ve contracted the virus. States are taking action: the New York State Department of Financial Services will require New York health insurers to cover testing for coronavirus.

Communications recommendation: Hospital systems need to make it easy for patients to find information about the costs associated with testing and care in one click. And in states where new requirements have been implemented on covering costs for health plan members, those requirements need to be prominently shared on social channels, with media, and on system websites. Systems should consider driving search traffic towards this content through paid search and paid social engagement.

2.  Prioritizing employee communications

U.S health workers' concerns have risen amid reports of multiple health workers sickened by the coronavirus. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities have reported being “hot spots for the spread of infections.”

Communications recommendation: The only way to ensure clout in your external communications around this issue is to prepare your staff, sharing a clear message with employees about how to protect themselves as well as the overall steps hospitals are taking to address the virus. Clinical staff and employees are on the frontlines, and hospitals need to ensure their trust while managing patients who may be infected. Systems need to leverage daily standups and consider activating an information line or a specific contact should employees have questions or concerns.

3. Understanding the supply-chain impacts

Although medical masks are in high demand, causing shortages and price gouging, there is an increasing concern for hospital systems about the shortage of critical drugs due to supply chain challenges, especially given the FDA’s announcement on Friday and India restricting the export of raw pharmaceutical ingredients.

Communications recommendation: Hospital systems need to be prepared to alert patients about potential shortages before the challenges hit at their systems, and be armed with messaging should media start asking questions locally about the impact on the supply chain.

4. Clarifying the difference between coronavirus, the flu, and other seasonal ailments

Consumer influencers and government agencies are generating confusion around symptoms between the typical flu and the virus, presenting uncertainty and misinformation on how patients should respond.

Communications recommendation: Hospital systems must also educate consumers about the options for testing and avenues for receiving treatment. Hospitals should lead on this issue by debunking the myths and fears around seeking care. Position content prominently to those already inside your health system (think fact sheets to patients when they leave doctors’ offices), but also to patients who may be searching online about the virus and considering treatment.

5. Thinking locally

We know different markets are experiencing coronavirus at different levels. It’s critical for health systems to understand how their market is different in terms of how consumers, businesses, and the media perceive the outbreak. When we apply the analysis from Turbine Labs to Cincinnati, as an example, local pharmacies seeing drug shortages are resulting in rising consumer concerns.

Communications recommendation: Follow national trends, but pay particular attention to the dynamics in your market. It’s tempting to see the geographical nuances here simply — the west coast and then everywhere else. In reality, the implications on costs and supply chain vary from Cincinnati to New Orleans. If you need help finding customized insights on your market, we can help.