The Future of Direct Marketing: Healthcare Marketing Tips
This post highlights ways that healthcare marketers can keep lines of communication open during COVID-19 and beyond.
April 24, 2020
Healthcare marketing professionals have always faced challenges with patient communication. With stringent rules about security and patient confidentiality, it is critical to ensure that you are sending timely and secure notifications.
And with today’s current environment, there is a renewed need to keep the lines of communication open with your patients to maintain their trust and help them feel supported by your organization.
What does this mean?
We understand the challenges that healthcare professionals are facing right now and deeply respect the efforts of every frontline professional that has contributed in treating our friends, family, and fellow community members.
The news articles about hospitals being overrun and overwhelming doctors and nurses are a much-needed wake-up call for many to understand the severity of the situation.
It is important for the public to have empathy for these individuals and understand how challenging their work is. At the same time, it is also important for healthcare professionals to have empathy for the patients as well.
Many of them are experiencing challenges of their own:
- Anxiety and grief over the current new way of life.
- Uncertainty of where they stand with appointments or elective surgeries.
- A new or advanced fear of being inside a hospital where they could catch COVID-19.
- Adapting to new technology such as virtual healthcare services, including video visits.
While positives in this situation are certainly few and far between, taking steps to share them with your patients will go a long way. Talk about what you are doing, thank people who have already helped, and talk to them about how they can help as well.
You may also consider sharing tips for staying safe and healthy, and recommend situations where they can avoid the hospital entirely, such as virtual healthcare visits.
When it comes to online healthcare, there is a learning curve particularly for older patients that are not as comfortable with technology as their younger counterparts, in terms of both technical skills and general comfort. Be mindful of the need for easy access and use of these services, with emphasis on privacy and security.
As more healthcare organizations shift to online bill pay and patient portal, it is important that is not every patient’s preferred way of interacting with healthcare organizations. There will always be people that prefer print copies of their appointment cards, bills, and other notifications.
Coordinating your online efforts with your print efforts will help ensure that you are reaching patients in multiple ways and allowing them to respond based on their preferences.
With all of this in mind, the question is: how can healthcare marketers keep lines of communication open during COVID-19 and beyond?
Healthcare Marketing Experiences
This is an uncertain time for all, and it is changing the way people perceive healthcare services.
Your patients probably have a lot of questions around how your healthcare organization is operating. Many healthcare services like dental are limited to emergency services only while others remain open for other crucial but non-emergency services like preventative care, but patients may find it difficult to determine where an organization falls on that spectrum and if it is safe to visit.
In those cases, it is important to share:
For regular communications, a combination of email and SMS/text notifications with direct mail reminder postcards can be helpful. (Of course, anything with sensitive or specific patient information should be kept inside an envelope.)
When it comes to bill payment, it is important to note that the shift to online payments that we mentioned earlier could be expanded to include over-the-phone payments, and can be a personal preference or a necessity. There is a reluctance toward cash or check payments right now, making debit and credit card transactions essential.
You can – and should – continue mailing the statements or sending electronic reminders, as long as you make clear the options for remitting payment. You may also want to prepare for the fact that this may last beyond COVID-19.
Once your healthcare organization becomes less restricted on the appointments you can set, you should communicate it to your patients as soon as possible.
In this case, it is important to share:
- How they can reschedule appointments that were missed or postponed.
- If you have the capacity to accept new patients.
- What the office hours are.
- What the process is for checking-in and the appointment itself (if there is anything that is carrying over.)
- If and how this affected your organization.
- How they can continue to benefit from your virtual healthcare services.
This, combined with a thank you for their understanding during times of uncertainty as they allowed space for your organization to treat COVID-19 effectively, can be powerful for building and maintaining patient trust.
Again, a combination of email, text, and direct mail can be used for general announcements and updates, and letters sealed in envelopes are needed for secure information.
You may find that a preference for online and over-the-phone payments become a “new normal" as well as a preference for virtual appointments, but many people will still rely on print for their reminders and notifications.
The Bottom Line
Keeping the lines of communication open with your patients is not only important now, but for the long-term success of your healthcare organization.
If you are looking for a provider for your critical patient communications, let us know. We are fully HIPAA compliant with SOC 2 – Type 2 or SOC 3 certification.
Bonus: Healthcare Marketing Templates
Healthcare Marketing – Short-Term Regular Postcard Template
Healthcare Marketing – Short-Term Virtual Appointment Postcard Template
Healthcare Marketing – Long-Term Regular Postcard Template
Healthcare Marketing – Long-Term Virtual Appointment Postcard Template
Healthcare Marketing – Short-Term Email Template
Healthcare Marketing – Long-Term Email Template
The post was written for our new series: “The Future of Direct Marketing.”