HITMC Conference Leadership and Management Marketing to Patients

Patients Still Searching During COVID-19

The provider-focused unconference session at last week’s Virtual HITMC20 event was full of incredible insights for healthcare marketers. The key takeaway – providers must not ignore the needs of patients who are unable or unwilling to seek care during the pandemic. These patients are searching for answers and gravitating to healthcare organizations that are providing them.

Patients Far From Idle

The unconference session was led by Jeff Steblea, Director of Sales at Eruptr and he opened the session with this intriguing observation: “We have seen an increase in search traffic for healthcare information, especially for ortho procedures. People are at home dealing with pain that is manageable, but they can’t deal with it forever, so they are researching their options.”

It turns out patients are far from idle during this pandemic. They are using this time to not only find out more about their treatment options, but also looking into which providers have the best outcomes and what COVID safety protocols they have in place.

Difficulty Finding Care

In some cases, patients are finding it difficult to locate a practice or healthcare organization willing to take them in. Berit Mansour, Principal at Manberg Strategies, offered the story of someone searching for a podiatrist.

Early in the pandemic, this person had an issue with their foot, but decided it wasn’t bad enough to go seek care and risk exposure to COVID at a facility. As the days turned into weeks and weeks into months, the issue became worse. It reached a point where they wanted to see a podiatrist. However, when they began searching for one, they found it very difficult. Many were only seeing patients in dire need, while others were only taking care of existing patients on certain days of the week and remaining closed the rest of the time to conserve costs.

Worse, hardly any organizations had published their COVID-19 safety protocols on their websites, making it even more difficult to choose which healthcare provider to go with.

An Opportunity

Dan Dunlop, Co-Owner and Principal at Jennings, saw this as and opportunity for astute healthcare providers to step up to fill the void.

“This is the perfect time for providers to put out some simple educational videos to help patients understand what the experience will be like at their facility,” stated Dunlop. “It would not be hard to take a camera, even the one you have on a phone, and film the new COVID intake process. Imagine how helpful it would be to show patients: stay in your car here, check in here, someone will come out of this door to get you, if you need to come in – here is the door you should use, here is what you need to have with you, etc. This all lends itself perfectly to a video.”

Steblea whole heartedly concurred: “All bets are off right now, so you need to reorient your patient community to how you are doing things in this time of COVID. You need to make patients feel comfortable or you risk them cancelling their appointment out of fear of the unknown.”

Worse, they may decide to get care elsewhere and if we are being honest, every dollar that a healthcare provider can bring in right now is precious.

Staying Nimble

Lisa Henry, Director of Corporate Marketing & Communication at Mary Washington Healthcare, summed up the unconference nicely: “Healthcare marketers need to be nimble right now. We can’t be going out with a hips and knees campaign that was planned 6 months ago when electives remain on hold. We need to pivot and revamp on the fly.”

Henry went further and added that this is not a time for marketers to be rigid in their job descriptions either: “Marketers have become sign installers and decal application specialists.” To prove her point, Henry held up a squeegee that she kept at her desk so that she could be ready for the next decal emergency.

NOTE, earlier in the Virtual HITMC20 event, Henry, presented a session on using humor to deliver important messages that included an amazingly creative Hamilton-esk musical number about their new EHR. It is definitely work checking out.

The final day of Virtual HITMC20 is happening Thursday December 17th. Don’t miss your last chance to join your HITMC peers in 2020.

About the author


Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at HITMC.com. Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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