COVID-19 Updates

Weekly Comms Report — May 16, 2020

More than forty episodes later, and we’re still hosting a daily podcast built to support hospital and health system marketers through the constant new challenges posed by COVID-19.

Yesterday, we dissected what it means to lead in this time of crisis. Click here, and we’ll send you meeting invites for next week’s episodes. We have a good lineup on tap.

As states open their economies back up, we’re seeing new challenges related to hospital and health system communications. See our recommendations below.


Communicating about COVID-19


1. New employee policies may be needed.

What we’re hearing: A health system in Wisconsin recently faced media challenges when one of their nurses was interviewed on the local news at a bar following the state’s supreme court ruling that deemed the stay-at-home order unlawful.

Communications takeaway: It’s not hard to imagine that after several weeks of being relatively confined to their homes, people (especially overworked clinical staff) would want to return to some semblance of normal once some restrictions lift. Hospitals, however, have a continued responsibility to care for and keep the community healthy, and that can only be done if the staff is healthy. As stay-at-home orders begin to lift across the United States, hospitals and health systems must reiterate to their employees across all positions, including non-clinical ones, the importance of maintaining sound distancing practices and avoiding any behavior that could jeopardize their own health or the health of patients and their peers. What’s more, if consumers see that nurses and doctors are reintegrating recklessly, they may become even more fearful of returning to clinical settings.


2. Hospitals are taking charge. 

What we’re hearing: Multiple hospitals in Massachusetts coordinated to receive a shipment of Remdesivir, the drug being tested for its effectiveness against COVID-19. When Massachusetts General realized it was the only hospital in the state to receive a shipment, they reached out to state officials and asked them to muster their resources and redistribute the drug across the state’s hospitals — even competitors.

Communications takeaway: All eyes are on health systems right now, and many inefficiencies that have always been there, like a lack of seamless resource sharing, will be on display as we continue to rebuild after COVID-19. Massachusetts General showed that not only can crisis expedite progress in inefficient operations, but that it’s crucial for hospital communicators to highlight and announce these types of collaborative solutions wherever they occur. Keep in mind that as the response to COVID-19 is rehashed and scrutinized, we all can learn from the experience and prepare for whatever may come next. So, while we should be honest about our own shortfalls, we should also be mindful of carefully calling out the missteps and missed opportunities by response leaders at the local, state, and federal levels.


3. We’re starting to see glimpses of the “new normal.”

What we’re hearing: McKinsey released a report on the long-term mark they expect COVID-19 will leave on the healthcare industry. According to the report, healthcare providers should prepare for paradigm shifts in their operations, how services are delivered, and “greater agility” in how hospitals are constructed — allowing for faster turnover of beds. The report also touches on the continued challenges around revenue growth and consolidation in the sector.

Communications takeaway: A crisis can present opportunities. Hospitals and health systems that have been trying to integrate marketing, consumer experience, and patient experience for years may get an extra nudge in the post-COVID-19 era. As agility becomes more important than ever, and the “standard” patient flows change, patients will be looking to their providers to communicate more clearly than ever. In preparation for a potential fall resurgence, marketers and communicators must demand a seat at the table, since patient communication has never been such an integral ingredient in healthcare’s future.