Increasing Surgery Volumes Post-COVID-19

Jun. 09, 2020

Instill patient confidence with targeted digital marketing


As states and healthcare facilities reopen across the country, a dark COVID-19 cloud continues to hang overhead. Fear of both the known and unknown have many consumers in a holding pattern when it comes to seeking care.

But there is a silver lining ...

During the past few months, many respected rural healthcare leaders have reached out to me for direction on crisis marketing. I want to share the direction I provided to them in an effort to help all rural hospitals expedite financial recovery in a post-COVID-19 world.

Before you can take steps to effectively engage consumers, it’s imperative to know what your organization is up against. Based on a recent (and insightful) survey[1]:

  • Approximately 80% of consumers who postponed elective care expect to reschedule within about six months – but even then, providers will need to do a better job of communicating with them to rebuild confidence and trust to make that happen.
  • Only about 40% of consumers plan to reschedule within approximately three months. Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for healthcare facilities that have little to no cash reserves.
  • The weakest demand is for inpatient care: Only 60% of consumers said they would definitely reschedule (with 26% saying maybe). Of those who plan to reschedule, only 30% said they would do so within three months.

The survey also asked consumers under what conditions they would reschedule. Top concerns included:

  • Facility is certified free of COVID-19.
  • Willingness/Ability of provider to see them.
  • Understanding of a clear plan and timeline for rescheduling care.
  • Reassurance that testing protocols and procedures for care, as well as safety of facilities and staff, meet or exceed expectations.

So where’s the “silver lining?" Your hospital has the ability to address each of these concerns to transform fear and anxiety into confidence – and increased volume.

The best way to do that? Develop a post-COVID-19 digital marketing strategy.

Bottom line: Rural hospitals need to find a way to reassure the community that it’s safe to visit their facilities again. One of the best places to share this information is through social media and other digital platforms.

It’s no secret that I am a strong proponent of digital marketing. Prior to COVID-19, Legato worked with many of our clients to provide a “digital boost” to their traditional marketing efforts. The results speak for themselves, as you can see in this case study featuring Rochelle Community Hospital

You may say, “Great, but that was pre-COVID-19. The pandemic was – and is – a game-changer.”

It’s true. The COVID-19 crisis has forever changed consumer behavior. But when it comes to social media and other digital channels, you can use this behavior shift to your (and your patients’) advantage.

Here are just a few reasons why digital marketing should lead your post-pandemic marketing recovery plan:

  • Social media usage has spiked since stay-at-home and safer-in-place orders began. Consumers of all ages are now using digital platforms more frequently. In fact, nearly 30% of U.S. consumers say they will increase long-term use of digital channels due to the pandemic.
  • In times of crisis, consumers’ interaction with your facility (e.g., website, posts, online resources) can trigger a long-lasting and lingering effect on their trust and loyalty with your hospital’s brand.
  • Building agility into a marketing plan will help rural hospitals adapt to the changing needs of consumers. Digital media gives you the ability to easily pivot messaging and make changes in real time.
  • Digital media connects your hospital with consumers at the moments they’re most ready to take action.

A smart digital strategy will:

  • Leverage increased consumption of digital media.
  • Leverage pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, which only cost your facility marketing dollars when consumers click on your ad.
  • Effectively target and track marketing so you can measure a campaign’s actual impact and return on investment (ROI.)

At a time when marketing budgets are being scrutinized like never before, it’s important to note that a digital boost can be added to traditional marketing efforts – with no additional dollars. Here’s an example of how that can be accomplished:

  • Shift a portion of your print budget to digital. For example, limit the amount of print publications you advertise in and/or condense ad run dates on only select radio or TV stations.
  • Direct consumers to your website to learn more. (Apply across all traditional marketing efforts, i.e., print and radio.).
  • Provide real-time data and make real-time adjustments to achieve greater results.
  • Develop a comprehensive digital plan that includes:
    • Pay-Per-Click ads
    • Digital display ads
    • Social media ads
    • Search engine optimization (SEO)
    • Video messages
    • Website communications (including sliders, banners, blogs, and dedicated pages)
    • Google Business listing (with updated hours, policies, and timely information)


Great challenges provide great opportunities

I’ve always believed that unprecedented challenges provide unprecedented opportunities to learn, grow and come out even stronger and more successful on the other side. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. But it will take the right business plan with digital marketing elements to do so.

Many healthcare leaders are now asking, “When is the best to open the doors to elective surgeries – and how do we do it?” But the real question is:

“Are your patients ready to return and
what can we do to get them through our doors?”

Find out during my upcoming National Rural Health Association (NRHA) speaking session, “Re-entry: Building Confidence for Elective Surgeries” on Wednesday, June 17th, from 2:30-3:15 p.m. CST.

I’ll share:

  • Practical tips for instilling a culture of confidence within your organization and throughout the community.
  • Steps to smoothly transition to specific business strategies to build revenue and get your surgery suites humming with business.
  • Techniques for developing a data-driven marketing plan to specifically build existing and prospective service lines, while enhancing the image and reputation of your rural health organization.
  • Strategies from rural health organizations around the nation who reduced outmigration and substantially grew revenue through targeted and strategic approaches to marketing.