Every industry is being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in different and unexpected ways, and healthcare marketing is no exception. We held a virtual meetup with our healthcare marketing customers so they could share what they are putting in place to better serve their customers, protect their employees, and reduce the impact on healthcare systems during the outbreak.
In the coming weeks, we will be holding virtual meetups with core industry groups and sharing what we hear on the Invoca blog. If you are an Invoca customer who is interested in participating, please contact us.
Here is what we learned from our healthcare customers during this discussion.
The Top Goals: Triage In-Person Visits and Protect Employees
Triage has moved into the digital world during this crisis. It’s no longer just about prioritizing care for those in the waiting room, but using digital tools to keep people who don’t need urgent care out of the hospital. This is critical to keep front-line healthcare workers healthy and reduce the burden on the healthcare system. We found that healthcare marketers are using everything from adapting paid search to inform people about the coronavirus instead of advertising, to increasing the use of telehealth technology, and adapting content strategies to allay common concerns that are changing from day to day.
Adapting Marketing Campaigns and Using PPC Data to Manage a Healthcare Crisis Environment
Most of the healthcare marketers we spoke with are pausing their normal marketing campaigns that drive inbound traffic and new patient inquiries. “This is no longer about volume and conversion rates — it’s about informing people and keeping them safe,” said a senior living healthcare marketer. Another customer cited that they are discontinuing lung cancer screening campaigns because they do not want to drive vulnerable patients into care centers right now, as the virus is a threat to their health.
Many are changing their PPC ads to drive people directly to the coronavirus information they are searching for in order to reduce the impact on the healthcare system by keeping healthy people out of the emergency room. “Since our paid media ads are addressing coronavirus, callers seem to be less panicked when they call because they have already received the right message online,” said one healthcare marketer.
Paid search has become an effective tool to manage the impact on hospitals and call centers so healthcare providers can focus on the people who need them the most. PPC data is informing many other marketing activities that help drive people to the virtual route first. “We’re looking at what campaigns are being triggered and we are seeing that in addition to the coronavirus issues, people are looking for virtual care since they want to stay out of the doctor’s office.” It is also helping them to optimize local content and local searches, as it allows them to identify regions where people are asking where to go for testing and appointments.
Overall, we found that paid search is being used as a source of data to understand healthcare customer behavior, guide them to the right places, and inform decisions about what content needs to be created to address their concerns.
Healthcare Content Strategies Used to Inform and Alleviate Fears of COVID-19
Content and messaging strategies are also being extensively updated to meet the rapidly changing needs of healthcare customers. All of the marketers we spoke with emphasized the importance of working proactively, and most had coronavirus content up well before the virus became widespread in the U.S. One interesting point we heard was pushing down or eliminating branded messaging to keep important information about the virus at the forefront.
Given the rapidly changing nature of this incident, content efforts are also being coordinated and concentrated. “All of our marketing efforts are supporting the overall coronavirus message,” said one marketer. They are updating this content daily or even more often, so to keep messaging aligned, it is important that all the content is in one place. To distribute the content, they are also using channels like Facebook Live and Twitter for sharing information about the virus.
“We’re using the know/go/owe approach to content and our customers,” said another healthcare marketer. “This means, what do they need to know, where do they need to go, and what will they owe?” The content strategies they are all using revolve primarily around tempering panic and fear around the outbreak so they can appropriately manage healthcare resources, help contain the virus, protect healthcare workers, and serve the most vulnerable and sick people first.
All of the healthcare marketers in our group also indicated that they are significantly increasing outbound communications, and it has been very effective. “We are being very careful, however, to not panic people with too much information that may not apply to them.”
Using Call Tracking to Provide Better Service to Healthcare Customers
Our data shows that, surprisingly, call volume to our healthcare customers has remained fairly flat over the last few weeks. At the same time, one marketer said his website traffic to coronavirus pages increased by over 70,000 users in the last week. This shows that the marketing tactics that they are using to inform customers online are likely effective at alleviating people’s concerns and reducing the impact on call centers.
Some of our healthcare customers are also using phrase spotting and Invoca Signal AI conversational analytics tools to learn more about customer behavior on the phone. This helped one customer make changes to their IVR to get people to the right representative quickly. They did this by removing everything from the IVR except hold music and coronavirus content, as well as messages that direct callers to online content like infographics and symptom checkers like this one from University Hospitals.
Some are also using Signal AI to capture data about what is happening on calls. Such as whether people are calling about symptoms or general questions. Most have found that many of the calls are for appointment cancellations, as people are trying to stay away from hospitals. Others have found issues where phone agents are losing their patience with callers because they have to repeat the same information over and over again.
To alleviate this, some are using Invoca to route calls from coronavirus-related web pages to the most appropriate agents to assure they are served quickly by agents who have the information they need.
Increasing Use of Telemedicine to Safely Serve Patients
Telehealth is being utilized more often by healthcare providers right now as people shouldn’t go to facilities for general appointments. Primary care appointments are being pushed to telehealth and most providers are offering this free of charge. One senior living customer is also offering virtual grief support groups to make sure this vital connection between people remains intact despite the need for social distancing.
Some have discovered issues with their telecare app providers having difficulty handling the large increase in volume. And despite the fact that telehealth is not usually profitable, utilizing it in this situation is a huge benefit to both patients and healthcare systems. “The message from our leadership is people before profit,” said one marketer in senior living healthcare. “We will have a financial hit now, but everyone will be better off in the long run.”
This may end up being the tipping point that brings telemedicine fully into the mainstream. “We see wholesale changes coming to everyone because of this. Virtual contact with the healthcare system is becoming more desirable and telemedicine will become more of the standard after this crisis.”
Creating Dispersed Contact Centers
Many healthcare companies have had to shut down call centers to provide for social distancing. Some were surprised to find that operating their call centers in a virtual environment (with agents working from home) had little negative impact on the quality of services provided. This is a change that will likely continue after this crisis is over, as they are now discovering the benefits of dispersed contact centers.
“As for [call center] performance, it’s surprisingly going very well and metrics are mostly stable,” said one marketer. “So at the end of all of this, what do we do? Do we reevaluate the big expensive office [for call centers] in the future? If you don’t have to maintain an office then recruiting suddenly gets a lot easier.”
Healthcare providers that use on-premises telephony systems have maintained physical operations by reorganizing offices to provide for social distancing.
Playing a More Active Role in Internal Communications
The health, safety, and mental well-being of healthcare personnel is the main concern for all providers. In order to provide easy access to up-to-date information that is specifically geared towards them, some organizations are setting up internal hotlines and intranet sites where healthcare workers can get the resources they need. Some also have crisis communication teams specifically focused on pushing out PSAs with talking points to the staff so the front line is educated on how to protect themselves and how to speak to people about the virus.
Keep an eye on the Invoca blog over the coming weeks for more industry insights about how marketers are handling the COVID-19 crisis and serving their customers. If you are a current Invoca customer who would like to participate in a group discussion, please contact us here.
I hope you stay healthy and wish you and your families all the best.