The following is a guest post by Allison Lee.
While many hospitals have been swamped during the pandemic, it has only been with one type of patient. Apart from coronavirus cases, the amount of patients being treated in hospitals is actually way down. In fact, Daniel Horn, director of population health for general internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, notes that the healthcare system is facing at least a 70% decrease in revenue.
Hospitals now have both the bandwidth and safety precautions in place to perform elective surgeries and treat non-COVID-19 related illnesses; meaning the challenge for healthcare marketers becomes finding the most effective ways to convey to prospective patients, it’s now safe to come back.
In this post, we’ll highlight the five ways hospitals are most successfully using social media to reassure their communities that it’s safe to return.
In the real estate industry, virtual tours have proven to be an effective tool in helping customers engage with realtors. The same could also be said about hospitals and healthcare institutions. People are still largely afraid of leaving their homes, so hospitals have been launching virtual tours through social media platforms to help alleviate patient anxiety. With a virtual tour, hospitals can showcase the step-by-step process a patient will experience if they decide to visit for a consultation or procedure. And to make virtual tours more enticing and in-depth, some hospitals and institutions have even shot their virtual tours in 360°.
For example Mayo Clinic launched a virtual tour on how their Rochester facilities are geared to handle in-person care during the pandemic. The video was posted on their Facebook page and received 1,400 reactions and 201 comments. Mayo Clinic’s virtual tour highlights the safety protocols that patients need to anticipate when they visit the Mayo Clinic facility. Another healthcare institution that has released a video virtual tour is Metro Health. Metro Health’s virtual tour on YouTube features how hospital staff routinely disinfects hospital equipment to quash any anxieties a patient might have prior to their visit. Metro Health also mentioned how patients can access their services through virtual appointments in case physical visits aren’t an option.
Share Safety Best Practices
Other types of content that hospitals can produce to entice patients back are videos and infographics that detail safety practices. A steady stream of these general safety tips posted on a healthcare provider’s Facebook page will boost patient visits. For instance, St. Francis Hospital’s Facebook page featured a video by their cardiology chairman, Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, that details how the COVID-19 crisis has affected their institution and what they’ve done to keep patients safe during these precarious times.
With health and safety protocols, constant reminders are key for consistent practice. That’s why healthcare providers have been sharing tips on how to keep oneself safe during the pandemic. We can see this being done by the Montefiore Health System on their Facebook page. In one of their posts, they share why patients need to sanitize food items and how they can do it. Safety and hygiene are of the utmost importance during these times, and healthcare providers are more than welcome to post this kind of content on their social media pages.
COVID-19 safety tips need to be specific to prevent confusion. For example, Dr. Mariea Snell, assistant director of Maryville University’s doctor of nursing practice program, highlights the importance of paying attention to your nails and between your fingers, where dirt and pathogens can easily hide. “The friction created by washing is very important,” she says. “So be sure to rub your hands together briskly.” Small tidbits like this, which create clear and actionable steps for people outside of simply telling them to wash their hands, can make a big difference in helping them stay healthy. This also lets them see your hospital both as an institution that knows what they’re doing and as a brand they can trust.
Around weighing a potential visit, there’s nothing more reassuring during these anxious times than reading reviews left by other patients who have visited the same hospital. But more than that, healthcare providers can highlight reviews that detail good patient experience and post them directly on their feed to be seen by other prospective patients.
COVID-19 made it difficult for hospitals to accommodate patients who had other health issues. Moreover, a lot of medical procedures have been delayed or postponed. Now that things have settled and healthcare providers enforced stricter safety measures, patients who come in for procedures and consultations experience firsthand how things have changed. As seen in the post made by Tampa General Hospital which generated 277 responses on Facebook, patients can detail their hospital experiences and bear witness to the safety protocols imposed by a hospital. Testimonial posts such as this will resonate with other patients — encouraging them to get the care they need.
Highlight Disinfecting Technology
It’s crucial for hospitals to make sure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread in their institutions, so they should have the best disinfecting technology to kill any pathogens and viruses. From something as basic as hand-washing stations to as advanced as self-disinfecting surfaces, disinfecting technology has certainly advanced.
In an attempt to keep outpatient departments free from any pathogens or diseases, some hospitals have enlisted the help of germ-killing robots. St. Joseph’s Hospital has been using the Tru-D Smart UVC Ultraviolet Disinfection robot which maintains the sterility of their facilities and even extends the life of personal protective equipment, sharing that news in a Facebook post that received 486 responses. Since new disinfection technologies are a point of interest for the general public, healthcare providers can highlight these technologies on their social media pages. Indeed, a post by University Hospitals of Cleveland detailing their technological advances has proven to be a hit on Facebook, showing that patients are more enticed to visit when hospitals showcase their best technologies.
Don’t Avoid a Necessary Visit Just Because the Issue Isn’t COVID-19 Related
Despite being the main reason why hospitals are filling up right now, COVID-19 is not the only health issue patients can contract or develop. A lot of health problems need urgent medical attention, and patients should never hesitate to visit hospitals to receive care. As seen on their Instagram post which generated 353 responses, Michigan Medicine emphasizes how waiting too long to attend to a health issue puts patients at a bigger risk compared to contracting COVID-19. Hospitals have been using their social media websites to provide patients with a constant reminder to put themselves first. And patients react positively to this initiative by showing support on their social media pages and actually coming into the hospital to get themselves treated.
While social media is always a critical communications tool for the healthcare industry, it’s that much more so given the current circumstances. With the right social analytics platform, hospital marketers will have the insights they need to get their pandemic related messaging in front of the the social media audience that needs to see it; a critical first step in getting elective patients to return.