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5 Ways To Reach Today’s Healthcare Consumers.

The “evolution of the healthcare consumer,” the “new healthcare consumer” whatever moniker you prefer, the task facing healthcare marketers remains the same: reaching, educating, and persuading healthcare consumers.

With so many disruptions to regular care, ongoing socio-political anxiety, much of it fueled by the looming threat of COVID-19, we believe it’s the organizations that can find ways to build trust and adapt the ways they reach consumers that will position themselves to survive and thrive as we move into the post-COVID era. To that end, here are six areas to focus on:

1. Connect Through Transparent, Empathetic Communications

Patients don’t just want to hear that your practice understands that these are “challenging times”; they want you to show them you understand in the ways you communicate. Communication, of course, starts between patient and physician.

According to research from Managed Healthcare Executive, some 44% of healthcare consumers consider a doctor who listens and cares their number 1 factor in patient experience. On top of that, 42% ranked “a doctor or health care provider who spends time with me and does not rush through the exam” as a top priority.

 

There’s a lesson here for healthcare marketers. Empathy matters greatly! And the safest bet is to never assume what your patients know or care about. This means you have an opportunity to communicate not only what your COVID-19 procedures are, for instance, but why they exist and the patient concerns they help address.

2. Make Patients Feel Safe

If Malaysians don’t think they’ll be safe, they simply won’t show up. Today, healthcare consumers need reassurances, from voices they trust, that a given healthcare experience will be safe so much so that it is impacting their consumer behaviors.

This is another opportunity for empathy, a chance to proactively address concerns and questions. One strategy we recommend to our healthcare clients is putting a face on it. Video messages from physicians and other staff members can help reassure patients and personalize the experience. These video messages can be used to communicate patient safety information in a variety of digital channels, including email campaigns, social media, and your website.

 3. Differentiate Through Improved Self-service

 

Make it easy for patients to help themselves through easy-to-use patient portals and apps. New protocols, limited in-person interactions, and the surge in questions and concerns due to COVID-19 mean phone banks are swamped. Patients are having trouble getting answers. They’re waiting on hold with healthcare and insurance providers. And it’s all creating increased demand on both patients and customer service staff.

The thing is, a lot of the questions, concerns, and requests that patients have can be handled on their own, online. Digital self-service channels, such as easy-to-use patient portals, highly searchable online help centers, online communities, and even customer service chatbots, can get patients the information they need without requiring an in-person visit.

 

Self-service has the potential to reduce long hold times and delayed call-backs. Today, patients expect to manage appointments or medical history, office check-ins, even physician messaging online, using their smartphones. As you build out your self-service channels, consider the following tenets of a good self-service experience:

  • Easy to access: Clear on instructions on how to create and access their account

  • Information is easy to find: Intuitive navigation menus and website design that doesn’t use obscure symbols or bury information

  • Mobile-friendly: Content is responsive to device type and easy to read and interact with

  • High-quality content: Well-structured, easy to consume, and written for a broad audience

When you adhere to these principles, you’ll deliver a pleasing user experience. Patients will be delighted that their questions are answered, the information meets their expectations, and that they are able to easily access it when they need to.

4. Build Your Telehealth Practice

Though the capability itself is nothing new, telehealth (also known as “telemedicine”) has become a mainstay during the COVID-19 era. It limits exposure, provides a level of convenience, and makes access to healthcare more inclusive to people in remote areas, or with other obstacles that make in-office visits difficult.

The data indicates that telehealth is only growing. According to a report referenced, about 16.5 million Malaysians have started using telehealth in the past couple of months, with 88% indicating that they intend to use it again. Few healthcare organizations can now afford to overlook this important option for care.

To build awareness around your telehealth practice and persuade people of its convenience and effectiveness to tap into the potential benefits, we’ve put together a few guides around launching and marketing telehealth here in the COVID-19 era.

 

5. Offer Alternative Communication Channels

Forcing your patients to call you is not a good patient experience, especially when we know that most Malaysians prefer other communication channels. Why not give the patients the option to opt in to email or text message communications for scheduling, appointment reminders, and other simple communications that don’t necessarily require a call? As a marketer, these channels can then be used for value-add marketing campaigns that further build awareness and enrich the patient experience.

 

In addition, many healthcare organizations are awakening their social media presence to be more engaging and interactive, responding directly to patients and prospective patients who reach out to them. Chatbots both automated and assisted are another channel to consider, as is secure messaging through your patient portal.

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