Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | August 3, 2020

Improving patient volumes for healthcare during and post COVID-19

The sudden challenges and changes brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic has many people wondering what’s next for healthcare and how the industry will survive. Non-COVID patient volumes have been decimated due to everyone given orders to stay away from hospitals. Lockdown orders brought treatment for non-urgent and elective procedure visits to a screeching halt.

We recently discussed how COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on revenue and healthcare organizations need to shift revenue streams and marketing strategy. The need to drive patient volume to recoup lost revenues will be paramount for many organizations to survive. Now we’re ready to discuss how healthcare organizations can adapt to the new era of healthcare, along with maximizing patient acquisition and retention in the future.

Healthcare in 2022 and Beyond 

It’s important to understand the current state of healthcare in order to prepare for what’s next. An improved patient experience is highly desired amongst consumers. According to The Beryl Institute’s 2020 Report on Consumer Perspectives on Patient Experience in the U.S., nearly 95% of people affirm that good patient experience is either “very important” or “extremely important”. A good patient experience doesn’t just mean happy patients – it is a powerful revenue multiplier. Hospitals that offer a superior patient experience can expect to achieve up to 50% higher margins.

Although COVID-19 was unexpected, this pandemic revealed underlying consumer pain points already in existence — the need for more “here and now” options for interacting and transacting with healthcare organizations like virtual care, online scheduling and bill pay, reminders and updates via SMS, automated visit check-ins, personalized responses to feedback, etc. In order to keep the health and safety of the population a priority, it’s essential for healthcare organizations to provide clear and accurate information. Healthcare organizations can create solutions to these pain points by maintaining an optimized online reputation through review management and leveraging social media, to give timely updates.

Given everything that has happened, healthcare marketing and operations teams need to be ready to hit the ground running on the backside of the pandemic. Here are several tips on how to address many of these pre-pandemic pain points during and post-pandemic.

Communication and Convenience 

In comparison to last quarter, the need for communication rose by 6% among consumers when asked which healthcare issues were most important to them, in The Beryl Institute’s Report. COVID-19 has only led to increased demand for communication.

During this time, patients and consumers alike have many health and safety concerns about healthcare visits. Elevated communication between healthcare organizations, patients, and providers will ensure that all parties involved are informed and on the same page.

Messaging will be key during this time as it can make or break your efforts for increasing patient volumes. A “we continue to serve” type message can prepare health consumers for transition, and help you stay relevant without appearing tone deaf.

Another approach could be to focus on the convenience aspect of any new virtual options available, like getting an appointment quickly and seeing the doctor in the comfort of the patient’s own space. For health services where virtual care is not an option such as screenings, surgical procedures, etc., it’s important to try to focus the message around safety precautions taken within each of your facilities, like room sanitation between visits and touchless check-ins.

Leverage Reviews to Address Customer Concerns 

A successful reputation management strategy highlights an organization’s ability to respond to patient concerns, communicate effectively, and deliver an elevated patient experience.

While 90% of doctors are concerned about the consequences of negative feedback, less than half of healthcare providers are planning on putting resources into improving their reputation. And with 90% of patients utilizing online reviews to evaluate physicians, according to Software Advice, it is imperative for healthcare organizations to understand this patient sentiment in any reviews related to their doctors, facilities, and overall patient experience they are providing.

There’s a clear disconnect between the healthcare consumer journey and healthcare providers. In order to create a consumer-focused patient experience, healthcare organizations should focus on review responding and keeping up with listings as part of their steps toward managing and improving the patient experience. To put it in not-so-elegant business terms, you can’t improve what you don’t know is broken, and you can’t make money if you continue to sell what everyone else knows is broken.

COVID-19 has already led to many healthcare organizations taking note of the importance of responding to reviews, with a 25% increase in the review response rate, year-over-year from our healthcare customers alone. A review management strategy will help healthcare organizations continue to improve their patient satisfaction experience and attract more patients to their organization.

Utilize Social Media for Communication 

Find new ways of keeping in touch with patients whose service has been delayed due to the pandemic. Simple communication can equal marketing. As consumers continue to look for available services and ease of communication from providers, healthcare organizations need to manage their communication strategy to ensure patients are up-to-date.

With the many consumers still staying put at home, individuals are spending more time online. Social media platforms, Google Posts and Google Q&A will give your healthcare organization the largest chance of being heard.

Your healthcare organization can build relationships with consumers on social media by encouraging them to ask questions and sharing ways consumers can be safe and healthy in this time. Communities appreciate healthcare providers now more than ever and it is a good time to maximize the goodwill and brand equity earned as a result of your helpful response to the pandemic.

By leveraging Google Posts, you can provide informative updates that will appear at the top of your Google My Business profile. These strategies will give your healthcare organization the chance to stand out as a leader in your community, give you authority, and build trust.

Deliver an Elevated Patient Experience with Telehealth

As a direct response to consumers’ expectations for convenience, healthcare organizations are rapidly integrating telehealth as an additional service. Telemedicine services provide the added value of positively affecting your healthcare organization’s reputation and increasing patient acquisition, due to the ease of use and convenience this service brings.

79% of patients stated a telemedicine visit was more convenient than an in-person visit. Healthcare providers must focus on creating a seamless telehealth experience that provides the same quality and care as an in-person visit. As telehealth becomes a part of the new normal, healthcare organizations who choose not to adopt this practice of healthcare will likely find it difficult to acquire new patients or increase patient volumes to pre-COVID levels.

The rise of consumerism has paved the path for a new type of healthcare consumer. Patients are leveraging the web to help them decide who their next provider will be. These changing consumer behaviors mean healthcare organizations and providers will have to strategically adapt to meet their expectations. Healthcare organizations need to anticipate coming changes to the future of healthcare with an optimized reputation management strategy. By focusing on your reputation management and communication strategy, your healthcare organization can adapt to all the current changes taking place right now.

So what are healthcare organizations to do in order to get patient volumes back and find new patients? 

  1. Focus on the entire patient experience, not just support for the latest and greatest touchpoints.

  2. Listen to the patient…and keep listening. Their voice must be embedded into your approach including a feedback loop about the experience. Only then can you ensure you are delivering a patient experience that checks all the boxes and thereby improve patient volumes and your bottom line!

If you’re a healthcare organization who needs help with reputation management, Chatmeter is here to help. Book a free demo and we’ll show you how we’ve supported medical groups of all kinds and sizes grow their patient base and create incredible care experiences.