Survey Results: Will Patients be Hesitant to Visit Providers Post-Pandemic?

Healthcare Survey Results: Will Patients Return Quickly

What’s the probability your healthcare practice will return to normal patient levels as the government eases restrictions on clinical groups and private practices? 

Almost Zero, and here’s why:

Spoiler alert: With so much uncertainty, it may take more than a simple email or phone call to patients for practices to bounce back to pre-coronavirus case volumes. You’ll have to activate and utilize communication tools and marketing strategies to convince them it’s safe to come back (you have those right?). Engaging them with education and information through a variety of marketing channels can help alleviate their fear and uncertainty.

It’s not anyone’s fault (ask your therapist) that so much fear exists around this… A global pandemic of this magnitude tends to catch people off-guard while inciting fear of the unknown, and in the COVID-19 wake – a recent study conducted by Revive Health has provided a glimpse of what the next few months could look like for clinicians reopening their practice doors. Marketing strategies and digital communication tools can help your practice soften the blow. Here are a few of the takeaways we think you need to know NOW so you can ramp up your patient communications:

1. Patients will be overly cautious

A whopping 65% of patients surveyed said they plan to wait anywhere from 1-6 months before seeking care (ouch!), and that’s AFTER restrictions have been fully lifted. Any practice group looking for a jolt of relief after governments lift restrictions will likely need to reevaluate their expectations, especially if they don’t plan on spending marketing dollars to reach their patients.
And while it may seem wrong to consider spending money on advertising after weeks of no business, it’s orders of magnitude worse to stay quiet while your patients frantically search for answers. Spending may be the furthest thing from your mind, but if earning is the goal, communication is key to helping patients overcome their confusion and uncertainty. Get your message out there. Engage!
“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” – Henry Ford

2. Know the message: address the highest priority items first

Understanding that many patients will delay care is only the beginning. The next step is determining what messaging will best assuage their concerns and get them back on schedule. Selecting the right message will help reduce wasteful spending in a time when budgets are severely constrained. Here are the issues most likely to give your patients pause:
Although these may seem pedestrian and obvious, communicating to your patients that these issues are being addressed will provide peace of mind. Take the time to transform simple concerns into messages that make readers FEEL you have everything under control. Just writing an emotionless email may provide information, but it won’t provide it effectively to help with difficult decision making.

3. Patients lack clarity on coverage from health plans

COVID-19 has created more questions for a system that is already at capacity. If you thought your practice manager and staff answered an excessive amount of questions pertaining to the services you provide before, just wait. Any unique provisions that have been pulled together by insurance providers will likely go unnoticed, placing the burden of education on your shoulders.
Don’t expect that your patients will put in the effort to decipher complex insurance jargon from policies they didn’t understand BEFORE  the coronavirus. Rather, seize this moment of confusion and chaos as an opportunity to become a place of calm understanding, professional refuge, and resources.

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Closing thoughts

The end of a global pandemic could mark the beginning of a whole new crisis for private practice groups. Don’t let that happen. Avoiding the pitfalls and miscues of an unplanned relaunch will certainly help you provide timely, critical care. Beyond that, sustaining your medical practice will largely be attributed to how well you’re able to communicate with your patient base.
On the bright side, practitioners have some advantages. Here are a few you can leverage to help catapult your efforts post-coronavirus:
  1. Physicians and healthcare professionals remain the most trusted voices when it comes to COVID-19 community impact
  2. Telehealth is becoming more widely adopted
  3. Patient outlook is leaning more towards optimism
  4. Patients are primed and ready to listen to your advice and recommendations
  5. The timeline for “back to normal” got a little longer, so you have time to prepare
How you handle the next few weeks could, in all likelihood, determine whether or not your practice is successful post COVID-19 lockout. For now, there is time to get it right. Lay the groundwork for patient outreach today, and remind your community why the care you deliver is so critical. If you need help, schedule a call.


About the Author

Adrienne Folse is owner and marketing strategist for Hippomatic, a national healthcare marketing agency providing strategy, branding, and marketing. If you would like to discuss your healthcare practice’s needs or challenges – schedule your 20 minute consultation with Adrienne.


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