After the dramatic shifts wrought by COVID-19 during the first half of the year, many hospital marketers are now thinking, "How can we recover and how quickly?"

In March and April, most patient volumes dropped sharply — between 40 and 60 percent — as hospitals scrambled to adapt to state-mandated closures. By mid-April, surgeries at for-profit hospitals declined by 55 to 70 percent. Then came recovery. In May, volumes started to increase as restrictions eased, and most hospitals resumed some form of elective surgery. Inpatient admissions and ED visits began to increase, while outpatient visits rose the most, by over 40%.

According to Advisory Board's research, most planners are optimistic that hospitals will return to pre-COVID-19 volumes by the end of 2020. However, there are ongoing challenges.

Factors suppressing volume recovery

Hospital demand will continue to be impacted by:

  • Consumer anxiety. A majority of consumers recently surveyed said they initially avoided the hospital because they were obeying their state's stay-at-home order, but almost half admitted they're afraid of contracting COVID-19.
  • Furloughed or lost jobs. Decreased employment due to the public health crisis means loss of income. For many, no job means no employer-subsidized health insurance.
  • Loss of hospital capacity. Due to reductions from safety protocols, staff and supply shortages, many hospitals may need to downsize further.

Keeping these challenges in mind, here are three ways marketers can help boost recovery.

Keep referring physicians well-informed

To keep patients in the funnel, overcommunicate with your referring physicians. Besides all the usual things that affect referrals — your staff's medical skill, appointment timeliness and good rapport — reassure physicians their patients will be safe from the virus. Provide your physicians with a set of talking points that address things patients worry about — safe check-ins, waiting rooms, family visits, as well as safe screenings and testing. Even easy access to parking can be an advantage. Share it all.

Simplify your services

Patients will always be anxious coming to the hospital, now even more so. Simplify your patient access centers — everything in-person or virtual that affects a patient's ability to get the right care at the right time, in the right place. Review patient arrival and registration procedures to see if you can reduce complexity. Are your telehealth apps user-friendly for patients who aren't tech-savvy? Make tele-triage pathways as easy as possible.

Prioritize communication and outpatient services

  • Reach out to patients with chronic conditions. Remind them the risks of ignoring health conditions are far greater than the risks posed by seeking health care during the pandemic.
  • Shift more inpatient procedures to outpatient. Explore opportunities to move GI, orthopedics, vascular or general surgery procedures from inpatient to outpatient and drive volume.

Despite the threat of surges, the outlook is positive. CMG Health Marketing is here to help you focus your market potential to impact volume. Give us a call today.