10 patient experience and marketing trends from health system execs

The unique pressures placed on the healthcare system during the pandemic elevated patient experience and marketing initiatives.


In the past few months, health system marketing executives have been focusing on patient education to dispel misinformation and reassure them the hospital is a safe place to return after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Now they have an uphill battle in public health to reach vulnerable communities and curate messaging that will keep the public safe as the communities resume more normal operations and vaccines potentially become available in the coming months.

The patient experience executives are also reimaging how to increase access to care and deliver a better-than-expected service, which often requires additional technology and resource investments. They will also have to measure efforts in a way that makes sense for the patient and conduct additional outreach to underserved populations and gain their trust.

On Sept. 2, Becker's Healthcare hosted the Becker's Patient Experience + Marketing Virtual Forum, which featured panels of patient experience, marketing and innovation discussing their experiences during the pandemic and outlining their strategy for the future. Click here to view the panels on demand.

Here are 10 key takeaways from the event.

1. The most difficult specialties to market are the specialized subspecialties that aren't well-known by the public but are a great source of revenue for hospitals and health systems. This remains true amid the pandemic, though approaches to marketing have changed due to COVID-19. Some hospital marketing teams have paused their data-driven, service-line specific campaigns and are instead focused on promoting brand awareness and addressing patient hesitancy by getting the word out that their facilities are safe and open for services.

2. The pandemic has brought on a phenomenon called "compassion confusion." This occurs when companies' health-driven marketing campaigns contribute to an environment where it seems like every company is in healthcare. This can make it challenging for health systems’ messaging to stand out.

3. Marketing and communications teams play an important rule during the pandemic, as they're tasked with getting information to the public about COVID-19. The key is putting the information out in a clear and simple way and using multiple channels to distribute the information. From digital advertising to social media avenues such as Facebook and Instagram, hospitals must use every tool available to get information to patients and spread the word about updated safety precautions at the hospital.

4. Social media and word-of-mouth recommendations are key in encouraging patients to seek care. So hospitals need to make sure that they are following all COVID-related safety protocols consistently — even one person not wearing a mask can lead to negative comments online.

5. The hospital at home concept will become more relevant in the future so individuals do not delay treatment. Health systems will need to acquire the necessary technology for remote patient monitoring and develop a hybrid for virtual and in-person care at the home. There are also considerable supply chain logistics that are needed for effective hospital-at-home care.

6. Many of the data gathering tools systems use to inform patient experience decisions, like HCAHPS scores and post-visit surveys, aren't useful for mitigating poor experiences before they happen. Health systems are looking for ways to collect data in real-time so clinicians and administrators can immediately implement changes.

7. There are countless technology solutions to improve the patient experience, and the most beneficial ones will help health systems more deeply understand the patients they serve on an individual basis. Technology applied en masse often doesn't reach the individuals healthcare providers need to connect with most in the underserved populations. Technology worth investing in also improves the trust patients have in their local hospitals and health systems.

8. It's time to reimagine the patient experience measurement in the post-COVID world. Organizations will no longer differentiate themselves by meeting patient expectations; they will need to exceed them. Patient experience surveys should be no more than five questions related to loyalty and whether they would recommend the system to their friends and family. The questions should be around:

• Did you care for me as a team?
• Was I part of the team?
• Did you care for me a s a human?
• How did the care team communicate with you?
• Were you treated with courtesy and respect?

9. Patients will feel more comfortable if they can see the effort hospitals and clinics put into patient safety and sterility. Instead of just increasing the frequency of cleanings, have the individual cleaning waiting rooms or shared spaces narrate what they are doing.

10. Patient experience has been greatly affected by the pandemic limiting visitation. This has resulted in health systems having to quickly deploy technology to allow patients to connect with their loved ones. This is especially challenging in end-of-life situations. Health systems are leveraging video conference solutions to make sure patients can stay in touch with their families when no visitors are allowed.

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