How To Convince Patients It’s Safe — and Smart — To Return
At 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.
In Peter Hochstein’s new story, he explains how they’re doing it. Here’s an excerpt:
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.
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.
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.
“By April 24, we had a 53 percent reduction in volume,” Clark says. “We realized we had to do something to make sure we were communicating.”
According to Tom Sheehan, principal and creative director at Deborah’s advertising agency, eponymously named in all lowercase, tomsheehan healthcare, “People were afraid to go to the doctor because that’s where the COVID patients were.”
Over a few months, the hospital and its agency launched various elements of a multimedia campaign aimed at former patients — primarily people 45 and older — potential new patients, influencers of patients, and hospital staff. All of this was intended to offer information, quiet the fear, and as the pandemic waned a bit, to bring patients back into the hospital.
Learn more — including how simple messaging proved highly effective:
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