By: John Lavey | Hammock President/COO

One of the big issues in healthcare “getting back to a new normal” is the resumption of elective procedures. On March 19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a recommendation to postpone most elective procedures. In effect, the spigot for a hospital’s revenue has been turned off for two months.

From an economic point of view, elective procedures are the lifeblood of a healthcare system’s revenue stream and profitability, and the loss of elective procedures is gashing hospitals’ margins.

As states begin to reopen, hospitals and health systems are resuming elective procedures, following a safety “roadmap” developed by the American College of Surgeons, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and American Hospital Association.

But there remains a need for a patient-centered, plain language approach to help patients feel safe about rescheduling or scheduling procedures during this uncertain re-entry to a new normal.

Communicating with patients and helping them engage with a healthcare system was complex enough before COVID-19. Now, there are even more challenges, but communication is more important than ever before. What will be successful? Three things should be at the center of any “patient engagement” marketing effort:

  1. Share trusted sources. Information about COVID-19—both true and false—is available to anyone with a television, smartphone or internet access. It’s hard to know who to trust. Hospitals and health systems have a unique advantage though, as most patients look to clinical professionals as trusted sources. Don’t be fooled into thinking that slick marketing messages will draw people in—patients want to know you can be trusted.
  2. Don’t skimp on details. Are masks and gloves required? Are loved ones or relatives allowed in waiting rooms? Every healthcare facility is different and has different rules, so it’s critical to have clear and detailed instructions about what to expect when coming for a procedure. Give clear and concise directions about where to go, what to wear and what measures to take specific to COVID-19 precautions.
  3. Engage in active listening. Communication is a two-way street. Many patients have concerns about their safety and well-being during this time, and rightly so. Your patients want to know your organization cares about their needs and safety. When it comes to engaging patients, communication is about listening just as much as it is about talking.

In order to be successful, you need a specific patient-focused engagement marketing strategy right now, tailored to this moment. Do you have one?

(Image: Getty Images)

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