The impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to significantly impact hospital finances. We’ve all seen the headlines; hospitals closing, workers being let go, and other positions furloughed. From the patient perspective, many appointments have been canceled or deferred, leaving 81 percent of consumers unsatisfied with their healthcare experience.
Fortunately, the reopening of hospitals to elective procedures, surgeries and other deferred services presents an opportunity to both recover lost revenue and deliver exceptional patient experience. To be clear, the choice for providers is not an “either-or.” Hospitals can do both; but for this to work hospitals need to have a strategic communications plan. As one Avtex client recently said, “if you’re not already planning for the recovery, then you are behind.”
Unfortunately, traditional patient engagement approaches like billboards, direct mail, generic email campaigns and EMR patient portal messages won’t solve this. Healthcare marketers are now moving to newer, AI-driven digital marketing solutions in order to re-engage their patients and meet expectations.
We recognize that some areas of the country have shut down or restricted elective services due to recent spikes in COVID-19. If you are in an area that has tighten restrictions, these planning tips will still be helpful once you resume all clinical services.
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Here are 5 key strategies to re-engage patients and accelerate revenue recovery:
- Prioritization – You need to determine which patients are the right patients to get scheduled as your hospital may not be operating at capacity due to the complex nature of serving COVID-19 patients, furloughed staff, and challenges due to patient anxiety. There are many factors to consider when deciding which patients need to be rescheduled first, including patient acuity, service line capacity, revenue potential and profitability. Segmenting your patients into prioritized groups will help you create custom campaigns and communication to reach the right people at the right time.
- Personalization – It’s time to make it about the patients. Our view is, “treat them like patients, know them like customers.” I recently heard a colleague ask “why does my oil change company know more about me than my doctor?” Demonstrate that you know the patient, their medical condition, and what they should do next. This also includes communicating with them where they are, which means through the channel they prefer, whether that is email, phone, chat, etc. Unfortunately, many providers have incomplete or inaccurate contact information for patients. Solutions like Microsoft’s Customer Insights can be used to enrich the data you do have and enable your Marketing team to digitally reach patients like never before. This solves not only a functional need - how do I find care - but also an emotional need - is it safe to return to the hospital?
- Automation and Self-Service – Make it easy to work with your team and health system. Utilizing technology to automate simple behaviors and providing a self-service option to your patients completely transforms how they interact with you. For example, embed links within email communication to enable one-click scheduling and help your patients understand what they need to prepare before visiting your facility. Avtex has partnered with Genesys to deploy agent-less campaigns for our clients to deliver critical information to their patients. This process frees your staff from making traditional phone calls and eliminates the manual processes that were previously required to get patients scheduled.
- Messaging - Let your patients know it’s safe to come back. A recent study showed that nearly 40% of patients say they would delay obtaining care for at least six months due to the current COVID-19 crisis and fear there will be a resurgence in the near future. It’s essential to communicate with your patients and help them understand the steps you are taking to keep them safe. Share information like what you’re doing to keep the hospital clean, how are you are helping COVID-19 patients, recent success stories (like the number of babies delivered) and your plan for staff safety.
- CX/PX – You need to consider the consumer/patient experience. Patients are now comparing your service with the last, best experience they received. If you don’t have a plan yet, it’s time to immediately engage internal stakeholders or external subject matter experts to help you define the ultimate patient engagement strategy. If you have a plan, make sure it’s updated to reflect the changing patient expectations. The ideal patient experience starts with the end goal and working back. Once you understand the ideal experience, then you can layer in the technology to deliver a world-class experience.
While writing this blog, I happened to receive the following text from my own provider. He nailed it! His communication with me checks all five of the strategies highlighted above. I immediately scheduled my appointment and have told many about the wonderful experience I had with this health system. Their strategy solidified my commitment to doing business with them, and I presume that many others had a similar experience.
Hey Mike, it's your primary care clinician. It looks like you are going to be due for you physical after July 15th this year. I am trying to get patients to schedule those visits now as once these restrictions are lifted, we are going to get a rush of people back into the clinic for preventative care. I want to make sure my patients are seeing me and not waiting weeks to see me or seeing someone else. If you could let me know a day and time that works for you, after July 15th, that would be awesome and I can you on the books! Hope you are doing well!Mike's Primary Care Doctor
If you follow these tips, you can help your organization to create innovative strategies for re-engaging your patients, as well as accelerate the revenue recovery your organization needs as we transition to the later stages of the COVID-19 response.