The Covid-19 pandemic has been undisputedly ruthless as it spread around the world earlier this year. With reports of more than one million lives lost, the virus also delivered a hard blow to global economies, leading to widespread and rapid change in business models across industries. With stay at home mandates, nation-wide lockdowns and social distancing regulations, the fundamental modes of service delivery were especially affected.
However, necessity is the mother of invention, and as the pandemic rages on it is clear that businesses willing to take on the challenges of the new normal, are more likely to weather this storm.
The healthcare industry is no exception.
Healthcare delivery has always been a hands on, patient facing field. For emergency medicine and first responders, this continues to be the case, as the demand for Covid treatment increases. However, healthcare organizations (HCOs) also deal with many aspects of community wellbeing, including treatment of chronic conditions, mental health and debilitating diseases, which have unfortunately taken a back seat in recent months due to the focus on Covid. Shelter at home mandates as well as the fear of possible infection has left many patients reluctant to go in for physical doctor appointments or routine check-ups, understandably due to predilection of the virus to adversely affect people with underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease, with studies showing that 84 % of fatal cases had presence of one or more comorbidity.
Without physical access to their healthcare providers patients are looking for a safe way to reach out to their physicians and HCOs. The advantages for patients are indisputable; they have access to health and wellness information from trusted organizations, with an opportunity to collaborate and connect with their health care providers.
The HCOs benefit as well, because they can connect with patients where they are most often found- online! This leverages the myriad tools that a digital presence can offer to actively engage with patients, while showcasing their services for potential donors, volunteers or clients.
Here are 3 of the web-based pathways that have benefited both patients and providers in the “new normal.”
1. Website Wave
Building a website for a healthcare organization is an extremely effective way to reach potential patients . The website serves as a treasure trove of information about the organization:
- Highlighting its specialties and centres of excellence
- Providing online services like appointment bookings and payments , which also organizes patient inflow, leading to shorter waiting times and crowd control, with precautions taken for social distancing.
- Using chat bots which help the patients avail services easily and conveniently
- Providing a medium to post patient reviews or testimonials.
Research suggests that online research about health services greatly affect patients’ decision making while choosing their providers. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 81% of patients said that they actively research the providers they are referred to, while 90% of them said that they would reject the provider, if they did not like what they saw online.
It is therefore important for health care organizations to deliver a digital experience to their potential patients, their caregivers, volunteers, donors or clients that exhibits operational efficiency, credibility and services offered, through a well organized, user friendly website, in order to win patient trust and loyalty.
2. Social media Surge
HCOs including private and public hospitals, clinics and pharmacies are using social media increasingly to communicate with their patients.
Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to:
- Improve the visibility of an organization
- Market their products and services
- Promote fundraising or community health outreach.
- Facilitate a forum for direct and real time patient feedback , improving social listening, with HCOs paying attention to the community’s response to their activities or services.
- Provide virtual support groups for patients or care givers dealing with different medical conditions
- Direct followers to more detailed information on an organization’s website, thereby increasing traffic.
- Offer recruitment opportunities to a wider audience.
- Provide an easy to access, verified medical knowledge bank for patients or their care givers. During the pandemic, a rising concern was the spread of false medical information which prompted many trusted, established medical organizations to use their platforms to deliver evidence based information to help patients in the community .
The versatility of the content one can put out through social media, like blog posts, images, podcasts, virtual conferences, webinars and videos, make them excellent channels to provide patients with resources for information about health and well-being.
Recent trends in social media platforms like Instagram Reels features and crazy dance routines featured in Tik Tok videos, put out by healthcare professionals use humour and light hearted fun to connect with patients on a more personal level, leading to more engagement.
According to a Canadian Medical Association survey, 50% of physicians in Canada have a Facebook account and 43% of physicians report contributing to an online medical forum. The British Columbia Medical Association’s survey found that 37% of members used Facebook while 6.4% contributed to online blogs.
70% of US based HCOs use popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to reach out to patients. Studies have demonstrated that 57% of consumers said that a hospital’s social media presence would strongly influence their choice to avail of their services, while 81% of consumers said that an HCO’s strong social media presence is an indication of its ability to provide technologically advanced care. 12.5% of HCOs surveyed reported that social media helped them to attracted new patients. Pharmacies and insurance companies have also been leveraging the power of these platforms to facilitate appointment reminders and prescription refills through social media text messaging.
3. Digital Signage
The quality and flow of information in a hospital setting is important for both patients and staff working in busy and often chaotic environments.
Digital signage with strong intranet connectivity, offers key benefits to manage communication in health care organizations , by providing an integrated, visual medium for dissemination of information, marketing and improved operation management.
- Custom video production:
- Consistent staff training and engagement with recorded sessions, readily accessible at all times
- Waiting periods are easier to handle for patients and visitors, by providing engaging and informative content, targeted to their needs. This can also help allay their fears or anxiety while waiting for their appointments.
- Patient education about health conditions, wellness tips or treatments, disseminated to a wider audience, in a cost effective way
- Engaging marketing tool to advertise services or offers
- Staff introduction videos to create a personal connection between patients and their providers.
- Digital information screens to provide efficient employee coordination due to faster, more accurate flow of information
- Integration with wayfinding tools: Interactive maps or directories at entrances and exits, to help patients find their way easier especially in emergency situations requiring evacuations, while reducing the strain on human resources
- Speed up patient intakes with interactive admission kiosks or touch screen portals to check in, update records , schedule appointments or pay bills, depending on the facility .
Medicine has its roots in the doctor- patient relationship, a dynamic that is traditionally maintained through face-to-face interactions, examinations and history taking, built on a bed rock of human engagement and trust in confidentiality. There are of course concerns on how an online relationship will affect the quality of care provided to patients in the long run. However, as communication tools get more advanced, patient and staff engagement is still the order of the day in healthcare.
Establishing an online presence, adds to the growing arsenal of tools HCOs have at their disposal to truly step up their game when it comes to health care delivery.
The famed McKinsey group coined the term “the next normal” to describe the post covid era, where we take stock of the changes we need to make in every field, in order to elevate service delivery, as we look forward to a more connected and evolved healthcare industry in the future.
At Wow Digital, we understand the value of establishing meaningful connections with our customers. As an agency that specializes in providing customizable, mobile friendly web design and in-house digital marketing solutions for various healthcare organizations, we understand our clients’ need to engage with patients and customers as we move forwards with healthcare’s digital journey.