Posted By Mercury Healthcare (formerly Healthgrades) on 08/24/2020

Digital Strategy Recommendations for Healthcare Marketers During COVID-19

Digital Strategy Recommendations for Healthcare Marketers During COVID-19

Amid uncertainty around the path of COVID-19, hospitals are on the hook to recoup lost revenue. But pent-up demand must still be carefully managed to ensure service line capacity aligns with demand. What can organizations do to quickly fill funnels with patients who are ready to appoint? Marketing must accelerate a strong rebound as soon as the time is right. But when is that? The answer in most cases is now. 

Scale your telehealth services

Thanks to better reimbursement, relaxed regulations, and pent-up patient demand, telehealth has taken off overnight, absorbing significant demand for outpatient appointments. Heavily promote telehealth to ensure consumers know what services you offer remotely and how to access them. It’s a sure way to continue your patient acquisition and retention efforts even amid shelter-in-place orders.

Beware, however. Part of marketing's job as a digital front door is to direct patients to the right resources and care delivery options based on their needs and system capacity. Telehealth at scale is new to most health systems. Just as when you launch any campaign, it’s important to understand telehealth providers’ capacity to fulfill demand. Otherwise, you’re just creating new customers for the competition. With relaxed cross-state regulations for telehealth, that competition may extend well beyond your service area.

Consumers are looking for telehealth options - help them connect with yours.

Promote your telehealth services on

Metrics that matter webinar

Don’t pause all service line campaigns

What about broader marketing efforts? How long after COVID-19 cases peak in your area should you resume campaigns, if paused? For most service lines, that’s not the right question to ask.

Healthgrades is having this conversation with healthcare providers on the daily. Based on what we're seeing across the U.S. with health systems and search data, here is our guidance: 

  • Recommendation: Essential service lines should stay in market.
    Health issues continue to occur that are not related to COVID-19. As such, we advise against pausing essential digital campaigns, especially on Google and other search engines for essential service lines such as cardiovascular services or orthopedics (e.g., joint replacement campaigns) and oncology. If you "go dark," consumers looking for specific procedures and care won't find your offerings. Instead, they’ll either find generic messaging or a competitor. You still need to be there for consumers who are raising their hands.

  • Recommendation: All serious acute service lines should stay live at normal volume.
    Think about tomorrow: You are advertising for the future. For acute services, you still want a presence in the market. Keep both Google search and other digital ad types going. No one sees an ad and has surgery the next day. If you go dark now, you will see an impact on volume down the line.

  • Recommendation: Pause elective non-search digital tactics.
    You want to be available to users seeking you out, but you don't want to be reaching out to those higher in the funnel. Stop promoting elective procedures to anyone who isn’t looking for them, and don’t promote any related in-person activities such as seminars for bariatrics.

The pandemic has hit many hospital revenues hard, but engaging patients now is the surest way to accelerate your post-COVID-19 recovery. On a positive note, many of your local media buys may be less expensive now due to higher inventory. This will change closer to the election. 

We will continue to share stories of the steps hospitals are taking to bounce back and consumer search trends on to help guide your way. If you have any questions about how to promote telehealth or reactivate paused campaigns for essential and serious acute service lines, contact us.

Shane Johnston
Vice President, Integrated Marketing Strategy

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