COVID-19 Updates

Weekly COVID-19 Report: June 17, 2020

This week, we’ve taken a hiatus from the Daily Briefing Live, as we prepare to relaunch it as a weekly, forty-five-minute show designed to talk deeper about the issues affecting hospital marketers most in the impending “no normal” environment, discussed in this episode. 

If you want to register for the new show, premiering June 25, subscribe here.


Communicating about COVID-19

1. Harnessing newfound strengths in your marketing function.

What we are hearing: In our discussions with marketing and communication leaders over the past couple of weeks, it’s clear that some of the strategies, tactics, and channels they were forced to adopt in the initial April/May response to COVID-19 actually went better than they expected.

Communications takeaway: We find ourselves at a critical juncture — where your marketing and communications teams have worked harder than ever, pulling long hours consistently to ensure you got your message out during COVID-19. At the same time, you’ve likely seen some incredible results. Maybe you finally ran a successful telehealth campaign. Maybe you produced more email content than ever, with record click-through rates. Maybe you were able to leverage data to win a seat at the strategy table in your health system.

That’s all good, but even if you’re not staring down the barrel of burnout, your team might be. Most health system marketing teams are still firing on all cylinders, and it would be all-too-easy to ride the wave of over-productivity without first taking a moment to assess which pieces of your department’s newfound capacity are actually driving results. Instead, you could create a truly sustainable strategy that applies COVID-19 learnings to your ongoing operations. As we move into what we call the “No Normal,” you have the opportunity to drive meaningful business results.

We recommend starting by creating a “start, stop, continue” list — breaking out your new tasks and skills into those three buckets. Did spinning up telehealth drive meaningful volume and referrals for your system? Continue. Did twice-daily internal email engagement start to taper off? Maybe stop with twice-daily, but start reallocating time to improve less-frequent communications. To minimize burnout, keep the “start” list short, and be sure the learnings from your COVID-19 sprint translate to exciting, but accomplishable plans.

2. Preparing for when vaccines become available.

What we are hearing: The race to find a vaccine is hoped to press forward at warp speed — literally. As the federal government continues to spend billions on research, manufacturing, and agreements, and Biotech companies reach the late phases of research, hospitals need to be on high alert and realize their role in distributing the drug.

Communications takeaway: Health system marketers and communicators should make sure they’re not caught unprepared when vaccinations do become available. Undoubtedly, there will be supply issues for the vaccine itself, and likely the syringes needed to administer them. Health systems need to begin thinking about how they will order and ration these supplies and how they will communicate about who will receive the vaccine first. As communicators, it would be smart to build out scenario plans and both internal and external communication messaging that explains the availability of a vaccine, who is getting it first, when, and why.

3. Combatting surprise billing.

What we are hearing: As if communicating about surprise billing wasn’t hard enough before, it’s about to get even harder. People who were previously tested for the coronavirus are now receiving surprise bills for the care they received. Although the Family First Coronavirus Response Act and CARES Act required private insurers to cover most COVID-19 testing, some loopholes leave patients vulnerable.  

Communications takeaway: People not receiving appropriate care or testing out of fear of high medical costs could have terrible consequences and further enhance the spread of COVID-19. Hospitals should continue to communicate with the public the necessity to receive proper care and be prepared to answer questions about billing. Consider providing your billing department a list of FAQs covering tough questions around the topic.

4. Educating the public on contact tracing.

What we are hearing: Experts say that until there is a vaccine, contact tracing is the best tool we have, but what happens when contact tracing fails? Multiple states are having trouble with contact tracing, and this week Louisiana reported that less than half of infected people answer the phone when they’re called.

Communications takeaway: State leaders have urged people to answer calls, but now that it’s become a larger problem adding to the public health crisis, hospitals need to amplify public officials’ voices. Hospitals should consider educating the public on the contact tracing system, how it’s essential to stop the spread, and how their information is being used. Arming the public with more information about this practice could be the first step of creating trust in the tool that is, for the time being, our best defense.