Return of the Postal Service: The Best Ways to Communicate with Consumers Right Now
People are hearing about COVID-19 from all directions – their friends and family, social media, the news media and more. They are confused about the ever-evolving healthcare guidance from spokespeople in the news and know they cannot believe everything they hear. This presents a unique opportunity for healthcare organizations and employers to step in and be their trusted source of information – for all types of health and wellbeing information, including COVID-related updates.
Consumers are eager for new information about what to expect when venturing out, returning to worksites and how to continue taking care of themselves at home until they can rebook appointments as the country shifts into a reopening phase. Healthcare organizations and employers are challenged with determining which communications channels they should use to reach patients, members, employees and other audiences, what should be said and how often.
The communications campaigns that your organization creates should inform people of the following: critical COVID-related information (i.e. prevention, risk management and mitigation, emergency preparedness), helping them adapt to new ways of accessing care, like how to use telehealth services, and also important things like managing conditions at home or taking steps to reduce stress and maintain positive mental health.
Here are four ways to effectively communicate with consumers to maximize engagement.
Snail mail is back! As people are still spending a lot of time at home, direct mail is a great way to reach them to share more detailed information and informative resources telling them how they can interact with you, what parts of your business are opening up and what that will look like.
Because it is lighter and meant to be more of a quick conversation, texting is a good communication channel to use if brief updates need to be shared more than once a week. Texting can have a broad reach and high engagement rate if done correctly. Use a friendly tone when texting consumers, like you do with friends, to remind them of new guidelines, provide quick tips around complying with social distancing or suggest links to helpful resources like a sleep app.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
IVR can make it easy for people to schedule appointments, so hospitals and clinics can prepare for when offices are open by connecting them to call centers. It can also be used to set up telemedicine sessions or to send automated calls to encourage medication refills.
Use email once a week to provide helpful updates and resources on testing procedures and availability or information on COVID-19 symptoms. This is also the best way to communicate policy or procedure changes that are taking effect.
Of course, the suggested frequencies might change based on the population you are targeting, where you are located and what message you are delivering. As always, consumers’ privacy and security concerns should be top of mind, so ensure your healthcare communications are HIPAA compliant and HITRUST certified and that they meet applicable standards for data security, privacy and legal compliance.
And, it would be remiss not to point out that this unfortunate situation has presented a unique opportunity for healthcare organizations to build the meaningful relationships with consumers they have been looking to develop outside of the clinical setting.
In addition to sending messages about COVID, organizations can show they truly care by encouraging people to take important steps to maintain health while at home – getting daily exercise, keeping in touch socially through video chats and remembering to stay on top of important medication refills, among others.
As a trusted source of healthcare information, consumers want to hear from you and have confidence they can trust what you are saying. Use this opportunity to create relationships with your audiences and be a steady stream of reliable information they can refer to in times of crisis.