Earlier in the Pandemic, Patients Were Told to Stay Away from Your Hospital. Now, How Do You Get Them Back?

November 30, 2020

// By Peter Hochstein //

Peter HochsteinAt the Deborah Heart and Lung Center in southern New Jersey, the task of letting patients know it was safe and even wise to return evolved into a multimedia effort. The campaign has been paying off with a substantial increase in patient visits.

Don’t let the bed count — there are just 89 beds — fool you. Deborah (pronounced with an accent on the second syllable) Heart and Lung Center is normally a bustling place. It’s a teaching hospital affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute. Moreover, statistics cited by Deborah’s Lewis Clark, vice president of marketing/media/public relations, indicate that the hospital is an impressive patient magnet.

Deborah pulls patients not only from its own Burlington County and nearby Ocean County, in New Jersey, but has a footprint that extends into the Philadelphia market. In 2019 it handled 72,000 outpatient visits, admitted more than 4,000 inpatients, performed more than 1,600 surgeries and about 6,000 non-surgical procedures, Clark says.

Then COVID-19 swept across the nation.

Patient Traffic Falls When Pandemic Slams on the Brakes

On March 27, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an order suspending elective surgeries, part of an effort that also included stay-at-home orders to most of the state’s citizens. Deborah continued handling emergency and urgent medical situations. “What we saw that week was the beginning of a decline,” says Clark. And it was a rapid one.

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