Shifting Revenue Streams & Marketing Strategy in Healthcare During a Pandemic
Hospitals and outpatient clinics are in a unique position right now. While the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on revenue streams, healthcare organizations find themselves sitting under a spotlight. It may feel counterintuitive, but now is the time for healthcare providers to shift marketing into high gear and create novel strategies to right the financial ship.
Many assume that hospitals and clinics are bursting at the seams, filled with patients who need care. And while many ICUs are experiencing surges, these patients are very sick and the costs to maintain an ICU department are very high. ICU patients are 3.8 times more expensive than general patients. Unfortunately, reimbursement rates aren’t great. In fact, the average COVID inpatient costs a hospital nearly $74,000, but the average allowable amount payable by commercial insurers is around $38,000. In a largely for-profit healthcare system, we can easily see how this math won’t work long-term. While the loss of human life is immeasurable and infinitely more costly, it is also true that this pandemic will decimate the revenue of many healthcare organizations. With very few revenue-driving elective procedures to offset the operating loss, many healthcare providers are finding themselves in dire financial straits.
The situation for physician practices is no better. With stay-at-home orders dictating people seek only emergency healthcare, revenue has dried up. According to a survey by the Medical Group Management Association, 97% of practices have experienced a negative financial impact since the pandemic started. Practices report 60% less patient volume since the public health crisis began. That translates into 55% less revenue.
COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon and healthcare providers have to remain afloat so they can continue to treat communities in need for the foreseeable future. As a sense of normalcy returns, healthcare organizations must take steps to recapture patient volume, continue to provide access to superior patient care and an outstanding patient experience. However, decreased revenue generally means fewer dollars for marketing budgets. But healthcare organizations cannot “not market.” Therefore, strategies must shift from once tried-and-true tactics to more cost-neutral, non-traditional methods that abide by social distancing guidelines. Here are five strategies to consider:
How Healthcare Organizations Build a Marketing Strategy During a Pandemic
1. Evaluate existing campaigns
Organizations that were mid-campaign when the crisis began should quickly determine how to proceed. It may be OK to continue generalized campaigns that don’t support a specific service line or doctor, but you must cease campaigns that include a call to action for clinics or service lines that are closed. Keep in mind that pre-COVID campaigns may run the risk of coming across as tone deaf. That said, creating campaigns around your new telemedicine options would be appropriate as your patients need to know what services are available.
2. Rely heavily on media relations
News outlets are looking for different angles to the pandemic. Look for positive stories within your hospital that can be pitched to television and print outlets. Impactful patient stories always play well during this point in the news cycle. Get your experts in front of a camera to talk about how your organization is approaching things differently than competitors.
3. Use education as a marketing tool
You may not be currently accepting new patients, but people are still thinking about the health services they need or want. People have more free time on their hands than ever before and will likely enroll in a webinar about joint replacements, bariatric surgery, LASIK eye surgery, physical rehabilitation services, breast augmentation, or other purely elective procedures. You can even host informational seminars about retail cosmetic services like BOTOX or laser therapy.
4. Over-communicate processes and procedures
Patients will easily get frustrated if they aren’t aware of updated processes and policies at your facility. Are visitors allowed? Which entrances are opened? Who will be screened? Don’t harm your brand’s reputation by making it difficult for pregnant women, cancer patients and others who must use your facility to access the care they need. Your local listings, social media, email campaigns and websites are good options for disseminating such information on a routine basis.
5. Build a marketing plan for telemedicine
If there is any silver lining in what has happened, is that adoption of telehealth options has been rapidly growing. Healthcare organizations have been forced to implement virtual care options very quickly and we expect a significant increase in patients using these options regularly. As a result, healthcare providers will have to rise to the level of consumer engagement seen in other forward-thinking industries and start delivering on health consumer expectations of easy access to patient care and optimal patient experience.
Managing healthcare marketing during a global pandemic requires a strategic approach. These tips will help your organization recover once the crisis has passed.