Response to the dramatic changes required by the COVID19 pandemic, such as fluctuating capacity, consumer hesitancy to seek elective care, and general uncertainty about the pathway ahead, has presented the healthcare industry with a new set of challenges.
Today, the role of healthcare marketers is rapidly changing due to these pressures. However, the disruption is unlikely to end once the population is widely immunized and further protected against COVID19 – and it risks radically changing the role of healthcare marketers strong. Here’s how healthcare marketers can cement their role as an urgently needed strategic asset to their healthcare system.
Collaboration and cross-communication will be crucial
Healthcare has seen a rise in consumerism over the years. However, many health systems have not been motivated to take advantage of this opportunity to prioritize consumer education. This is a missed opportunity with more people working from home, patients realizing they have more care options than ever before, and are more likely to stick with a healthcare system that understands their health needs.
A customer-centric health system functions much like the consumer-led companies in other industries. When we examine processes that allow these companies to adopt a consumer-led stance, there is one clear initiative that stands out: Every group within the organization finds ways to collaborate and support each other towards achieving a central mission.
Marketers should use their natural storytelling and collaboration skills to connect the dots between management, IT, call centers, human resources, business development, finance, and other departments that play a role. an important role in the health system. For example, a call center may experience a spike in complaints related to long wait times and notifications to middle management. Middle management will then determine if this has a negative impact on the patient experience.
If so, management can ask each part of the organization to work together on a single project to eliminate long wait times. One possible part of the solution is a full assessment of the digital door as a whole: How can we make the site more self-sufficient? Does our find-a-doc provide selected and improved matches through a centralized vendor database? Is the contact center prepared with the right technology, guided conversation scripts, and training to proactively assist callers?
Having teams working side-by-side on these consumer-centric initiatives often becomes the catalyst to disrupting data warehouses, allowing those responsible to grow the scope of the service. services that connect disparate sources to improve visibility in the consumer’s health journey.
Budgets and priorities need to be redefined
The health system faces a long period of uncertain revenue. Some traditional healthcare marketing channels, such as contracts with professional sports teams, may be closed in the immediate future. This can take a toll on healthcare systems that put these high-budget promotions at the heart of their marketing strategy.
To stay competitive, marketing needs new, unique ideas – and one of the best ways to generate those ideas is to take a more data-driven approach. Protecting budgets and prioritizing becomes easier when you use data to find and support initiatives that directly support health system outcomes – perhaps by advertising in new channels or adopt an approach to patient retention.
There is an urgent need for a more agile marketing approach to quickly respond to the near-constant uncertainty. This includes creative ways to use offline and online ad spend to communicate powerful COVID19 protocols within your organization. To assist this process, you may need to perform a situational analysis to determine the probability of each outcome and then determine the best way to reach the patient. This can involve a digital conversion, which is often cheaper than offline advertising and easy to pivot.
As healthcare marketers struggle to change their advertising and marketing plans to better support their organization’s goals, they too must prove their worth to leaders. It has never been more important to use marketing analytics not only to illustrate the impact of your campaigns but also to gain a more strategic view of your marketing investments. Healthcare marketers need to reject the status quo and prove the value of their new ideas by making data-driven decisions. After diving into the data, your healthcare system may even find that it has overstated the value of historic marketing initiatives.
Focus on new ways to retain patients
You may find that there are a large number of patients seeking care from your health care system. This means marketers need to take a closer look at their existing patient retention programs. At the same time, they must find the most effective methods to treat these patients and plan a return to new patient acquisition strategies to fill the pipeline.
Ask yourself how to improve the patient experience and strengthen patient loyalty. For example, you can keep an orthopedic patient in need of a knee replacement engaged using a personalized outreach strategy that provides tips for managing their condition and checklists to help them prepare for any upcoming consultation.
Not all elective surgeries are urgent, and some conditions take longer to treat than others. For this reason, we recommend prioritizing and optimizing patient planning and outreach using three key areas informed by people, processes, and technology.
- Communication – Think of how you plan to communicate with individual patients. Instead of impersonal mass marketing campaigns, communicate using channels that encourage a two-way conversation, such as text messages, emails, or phone calls. Then, use these channels to keep a pulse on the needs of your patients while they wait to receive care. For instance, you could ask patients with scheduled consultations if they are interested in being put on a waitlist for last-minute cancellations.
- Segmentation – By segmenting patients, marketers can prioritize those who are most likely in need of care. Create a list of patients who had nonessential procedures canceled due to COVID-19 and group by service line and leverage these segmented lists to respond to patient needs.
- Qualification – Finally, rank certain service lines or procedures in order of urgency. Highly acute cases that compromise the quality of life (such as cancer surgery) would come first, while less pressing procedures (like shoulder surgery) might come later. Think strategically about visits that could be diverted into your telehealth program. Then, determine how many acute cases you can handle a day, and begin treating the most high-risk patients possible, keeping in mind how much time these procedures take per patient. At the same time, be cognizant of your resources – if you have a limited number of ventilators, push back any elective surgeries that require ventilator use.
Make sure you collect customer data every step of the way and import it into your omnichannel health communication platform, which provides a unified method to view all images of marketing communications, regardless of the channel. It will help you capture patient attitudes, helping your marketing team send the right message to the right person at the right time.
Marketers must become technologists
While having good brand recognition helps improve campaign performance and lowers cost-per-acquisition, marketers need to move away from simple taglines and branded campaigns, and into a business-focused mindset and engineer new, efficient processes using healthcare marketing technology. This forces them to take on many new, technologically advanced, and not necessarily branded roles.
This change has been happening for many years now – however, pressures from the COVID19 pandemic have accelerated the need for this change. Marketers do not have a year or two to adjust to their role in the health system. They need to start fulfilling this role today or else they will miss the opportunity as the organization finds ways to meet this need in other ways.
Instead of thinking about rebranding, think about how you can transform the healthcare system yourself using smart interactive technology and transformational strategic initiatives. This means moving away from pure promotional tactics and adopting a broad-based technology initiative that will allow you to provide end-to-end personalized patient and provider engagement.
However, do not think of technology as the sole, standalone solution. While technologies like CRM platforms and omnichannel communication platforms are helping with this transformation, they are by no means replacing the organizational paradigm shift that must take place to keep healthcare marketers relevant in these changing times.
Throughout the ongoing turbulence that hospitals and health systems are facing, marketers need to think about what they need to do to meet customer expectations and do everything in their power to deliver that standard of care. Marketers should view COVID19 as a catalyst that encourages them to position existing areas of a hospital’s marketing, operations, and technology strategy that can be improved and optimized. Then they have to be the agents of change who reject all old practices and begin to develop a strategically correct marketing strategy to get the most out of a limited budget.
Remember that no part of this vision can be achieved overnight, and healthcare marketers will have to wait 2 or 3 years before devising these strategies. To overcome the uncertainties, leaders need to imagine what their hospitals will look like in the next 3, 6, and 12 months, and learn how they can become the change agents to shift from traditional patient engagement, and into the enterprise-wide engagement. With the right stakeholders, processes, and technology behind them, marketing teams will have everything they require to make this vision a reality.