The messages hospital marketing execs are using to bring patients back

Hospital and health system marketing executives nationwide are taking on the tough task of assuring patients it is safe and necessary to maintain their physical health and return to healthcare facilities — even amid a pandemic.

Many patients still feel anxiety surrounding virus contraction and are delaying care, so hospital marketing leads must be strategic when communicating how their facilities are keeping patients protected during the pandemic.

Here, seven healthcare marketing executives share what they believe is the most effective message to encourage patients to return for medical care.

Suzanne Hendery, chief marketing officer at Renown Health (Reno, Nev.): Here's what consumers told us: "Explain what to prepare for my visit, what to expect when I arrive and throughout the visit." In our local market, 49 percent of those surveyed asked for this information, and we have provided it in our messaging and in all mediums. This mirrored the national data. In addition, 39 percent of local consumers also wanted to have information on "explaining how your health system is handling any coronavirus patients that may also be receiving care at our organization." Our local consumers also wanted messaging to explain how social distancing will be done (31 percent), a special phone line they could call for more information on their visit (20 percent), reassuring them we have the equipment for their procedure/surgery (18 percent) and how we are cleaning the facility (17 percent). 

Tanya Andreadis, chief marketing officer at UCLA Health (Los Angeles): Health is more important now than it ever was, and there are now more options to see your doctors than ever before — video, phone and in person. 

Valerie Simon, chief marketing and communications officer at Atlantic Health System (Morristown, N.J.): Effective messaging requires a foundation of trust. Building that foundation requires time, consistency and a message that recognizes patients' priorities. At the top of that list is a message that "we will keep you safe." While there is no single message that assuages all the fear that has built over the course of the pandemic, it is critical to consistently weave that message of safety and reassurance into all of your marketing and communications. Outstanding care, easy access and extraordinary patient experience continue to drive choice but more than ever, trust is paramount.

Joan Gubernick, chief marketing officer at Einstein Healthcare Network (Philadelphia): While all health systems, right now, need to address safety, we are also telling our patients we can see them however they are comfortable. From their own home, they can select a telehealth visit or an in-person visit, and they can be seen at home, in a hospital, at an outpatient practice or in a doctor's office. Giving patients the choice gives them a sense of control and the comfort they need to return.

Sandra Mackey, chief marketing officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati): We've found success in a multifaceted approach to reaching our patients, ensuring we are keeping them regularly informed and updated via a variety of communication channels. We've developed materials that include videos outlining steps we've taken to ensure a safe environment for our patients, where they hear directly from our providers and care teams in their own words those same messages of reassurance and how we're prioritizing safety at every level. As we continue to keep them updated, we're also developing an extension of our brand campaign with messaging that more closely aligns with where we are today — one that reassures our patients and consumers that not only are we here to provide the highest-quality compassionate care, but that our commitment to their safety has, and will always be unwavering. In all of our patient email messages, we've woven in provider messages and updates on our safety protocols throughout.

Katie Wengert, chief marketing and external relations officer at Broadlawns Medical Center (Des Moines, Iowa): As with any industry, product or service, the most effective messaging conveys how your healthcare organization is positioned to best meet the needs of a patient, whether it is clinical expertise, outstanding providers, state-of-the-art technology, new facilities, access to appointments or affordable out-of-pocket costs.

Don Stanziano, chief marketing & communications officer at Geisinger Health (Danville, Pa.): At Geisinger, we have employed a safety campaign to reassure our patients, health plan members and the community that our hospitals and clinics are safe. This included earned media, social media, paid advertising, and a landing page on that includes a video showing all the steps we've taken to keep our patients safe and what to expect when they arrive for their appointment. All the materials created included a "safety check" icon that we place on our marketing materials to draw attention to our safety message. 

Internally, we included a "Safe Opening Kit" that we deployed to more than 400 clinics and departments across Geisinger that includes floor decals to indicate where to stand to ensure a safe distance from others, signage and educational materials to support our masking and visitation policies. The kit was also made available in Spanish.

The materials were so well-received that we were asked by local businesses if we could make them available to support safety for their employees and customers. We've shared materials through a web resource page for the community that allows organizations and businesses to download our materials.  And we've shared kits with communities like the city of Scranton to distribute.



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