Marketers and patient experience managers are hard at work adjusting to the new realities of healthcare, as they respond to seismic shifts in consumer behavior and changes in services while preparing for the long-term recovery from COVID-19.
Appointments across the medical spectrum are being postponed and cancelled, services have been suspended with unclear restart dates, and innovations like telemedicine are moving to the forefront.
With life as a healthcare professional changing by the day – and likely permanently – prioritizing updates to your brand’s online presence is essential as we look toward the months and years ahead.
Here are ways to prepare your healthcare organization’s digital footprint for the lasting transformation brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
Realize the Importance of Listings
The current drop in search traffic and website visits has highlighted the growing importance of displaying business information clearly on search engine results pages (SERP).
Many healthcare brands have updated business descriptions, hours and services on third-party directories like Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, ZocDoc, WebMD and CareDash. Those changes needed to be timely and accurate across all enterprise locations, and so do future updates as you begin offering those services once again.
While some features, like Google My Business’s COVID-19 Posts, will automatically expire, other listings and attributes may need to be altered as things start returning to normal. If you haven’t already, consider building a spreadsheet with accounts you’ve updated so COVID-19 information can be easily found and removed later.
If you have added to your websites’ meta information, such as COVID-19 announcements through schema, make sure your web manager is prepared to update that information for key pages like your homepage, provider profiles and location pages as services start running normally.
Practices around the country are launching or increasing telemedicine services more than ever. If you fall into that category, it’s imperative to include virtual health services throughout your website and third-party listings. These changes will not only keep patients informed about care options, but also will build your authority as a telemedicine provider for the long term.
These are some of the questions you should answer across your facility listings:
- Are you seeing new patients or just existing patients via telemedicine?
- What specific health issues can you help with via telemedicine?
- What hours are virtual services available?
- How do I know if my care provider is offering virtual visits?
- Will insurance cover a telemedicine visit with a provider?
Listen to the Social Media Conversation
Internet users are searching less for healthcare providers – Binary Fountain clients saw total searches decrease by 78% between Feb. 24 and April 20. But they’re also taking in significantly more content than usual. By monitoring the COVID-19 conversation across platforms and using social listening technology, you can understand consumer sentiment much more completely than in the past.
Though search traffic will eventually increase and social media traffic will eventually decrease as COVID-19 recovery begins for healthcare brands, the current influx of online engagement likely will help long-tail organic search results. Marketers that find ways to maximize social media content that is currently attracting engagements can improve the foundation of their online reputation for the long term.
Most importantly for the social media conversation, consumers trust local healthcare experts more than any other source for coronavirus-related information. Healthcare organizations can use that magnified trust to cement their position as trusted information sources for their communities in the future.
Where appropriate, you can continue highlighting your staff and frontline providers, who have become effective healthcare brand ambassadors during the crisis. People won’t forget the heroes that combatted the pandemic, and social media is a perfect tool to amplify the positive sentiment around your staff and your brand.
With fewer advertising dollars in most healthcare marketing budgets, now might also be a good time for you to experiment with new content types, like webinars, chatbots and short videos. On Facebook and Instagram, also consider using “Stories” to educate younger demographics about services like telemedicine.
Generate Reviews and Analyze New Feedback
With online brand mentions related to the coronavirus appearing so frequently – nearly 100,000 in April for Binary Fountain clients alone – healthcare organizations will have to prioritize backlogged review responses and social media engagement by the amount of informational value they can provide to patients and their communities.
But don’t neglect other healthcare conversations that may arise from the COVID-19 recovery process.
Healthcare brands should prepare to respond to reviews and surveys for people who have chronic conditions or have put off elective treatments until May or later. How you respond to the pent-up concerns of that population once those sorts of appointments are back up and running will have a major impact on your brand reputation.
Furthermore, your review generation and survey strategies will need adjustments as consumers adjust to new expectations of care as the pandemic loosens its grip. Especially for telemedicine offerings, reviews in the coming months will offer insight into how to make patients feel comfortable with less traditional paths to care.
Here are some other considerations for healthcare organizations as review generation efforts ramp back up:
- Highlighting how communities can help your care locations recover by writing positive reviews online.
- Monitoring employer reviews as healthcare workers feel the drawn-out effects of pay cuts, furloughs and burnout.
- Preparing to field questions and comments about new telemedicine services.
There’s no easy path ahead for healthcare marketers as the nation begins to recover and return to some sense of normalcy. But if you can match your listings, messaging and reviews with your operational reality, patients will be several steps closer to seeing you as a trustworthy partner in care.
For more on preparing your brand to manage COVID-19 now and beyond, visit our Resources Page and browse these posts:
- Covid-19 Testing Facilities: Ways to Inform Consumers About Local Test Availability
- COVID-19: Healthcare Marketing During a Crisis and the New Normal
- [Infographic] The Online Conversation Around COVID-19
About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist