The healthcare system is running at its limits in many countries worldwide. One reason is the growing demand for healthcare, largely driven by the rise of chronic diseases. COVID-19 has further underscored just how stretched the system is today. Is there any solution to the twin challenge of managing costs while extending capacity?
We believe that digital technologies are an important part of the answer. Although still in early stages, it is poised for broader adoption thanks to recent technological advances. While digital won’t help solve all the problems in our healthcare system, it will significantly contribute to easing the cost and capacity burden.
One particularly promising area in this context is digital therapeutics. Based on the analysis of individual patient data, patients receive personalised medical recommendations – through an app or a digital platform – without the need for physician intervention. Digital therapeutics can help patients stick to treatment plans and/or better understand what triggers critical situations. Digital therapeutics are already available for different indications including diabetes or asthma and are being developed in many other areas as well.
ISSUE: Digital health technologies have the potential to improve access to care, empower patients and reduce costs, particularly in a world faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear, however, which research designs are best for measuring the value of these innovations. For pharmaceuticals and other treatments, the gold standard is a randomized controlled trial (RCT). In the world of digital, however, RCTs’ tightly prescribed protocols, long delays, and high cost may prove problematic for demonstrating real-world value. On the other hand, without robust evidence, the value of digital health innovations will remain unclear. In this issue panel, panelists will provide concrete examples of how the value of digital health innovations has been quantified through recent research, will debate the merits of different methods for quantifying the this value, and discuss how COVID-19 is changing the use and valuation of digital health technologies. OVERVIEW: This panel will debate alternative research designs for measuring the value of digital medicine and how digital medicines are likely to evolve as more treatment interactions are conducted remotely due to COVID-19. Dr. Kidholm will provide a summary of the different types of digital health innovations in use as well as an overview of some policies used to incentivize increased uptake of digital medicine. Ms. Kjær Rasmussen will describe how her research has used an RCT approach to measure the value of telemonitoring services. Dr. Shafrin will present his research measuring the value for digital medicine technologies—including chip-in-pill adherence technologies and digital, point-of-care diagnostic tests—in cases where RCT data are not available. Dr. Ossebaard will present findings from a systematic literature review of health technology assessments for eHealth. Presentations will be approximately 8 minutes with 20 minutes for panel discussion and 10 minutes for audience questions.
Novartis’s Spartalizumab Combo Fails To Meet The Primary Goal In The Melanoma Trial
Novartis recently declared the results of its Phase III COMBI-I trial evaluating its experimental checkpoint inhibitor spartalizumab in combination with Tafinlar (dabrafenib) and Mekinist (trametinib) for patients, previously untreated, with unresectable or metastatic BRAF V600 mutation-positive melanoma compared to Tafinlar and Mekinist alone. The results announced that the spartalizumab combo stumbled in the trial and failed to hit the primary endpoint of investigator-assessed progression-free survival in melanoma.
The drug, Spartalizumab, is an experimental monoclonal antibody designed as immunotherapy to target the human programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor. Tafinlar and Mekinist are prescription treatments targeting melanoma, and or other cancers, including thyroid cancer.
The company will review the data further and plans to assess spartalizumab in other tumor types. Earlier this month, Novartis received the FDA recommendation for its Kesimpta (ofatumumab) for subcutaneous use for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (RMS). Moreover, the company also announced positive data from the Phase II ELARA trial of Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) in patients with relapsed or refractory (r/r) follicular lymphoma (FL).
Union Therapeutics A/S Announces Completion Of Dosing Of Healthy Volunteers With UNI911 For COVID-19
Union Therapeutics announced successful completion of dosing healthy volunteers with UNI911. The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, where ascending single and multiple dosing regimens were given to 44 healthy volunteers. The goal of the study was to assess the efficiency and safety of UNI911 in COVID-19 patients.
UNI911 was administered as an inhalation treatment candidate for COVID-19 across five cohorts. The drug uses an optimized salt form of niclosamide, which is a safe oral drug and is in use for decades as an anthelmintic drug. The drug is directly delivered to lungs via inhalation to achieve high local exposures, and address the concerns of low oral bioavailability linked to niclosamide.
Yumanity Therapeutics Plans To Merge With Proteostasis Therapeutics To Advance Neurodegenerative Disorders Pipeline
Yumanity Therapeutics has decided to merge its operations with Boston-based Proteostasis Therapeutics. The duo plans to advance the pipeline for neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease.
Both the companies have candidates that address the misfolded proteins at the root of disease. The companies will focus on Yumanity’s YTX-7739, which is in a Phase I trial for Parkinsons’ disease. Yumanity is also running trials for its candidates which are in different stages of clinical development for dementia with Lewy bodies, multi-system atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD). Proteostasis, on the other hand, is looking for another deal for its proprietary CFTR modulators.
Dr. Jim Merlino, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Cleveland Clinic
Despite having entered the US eight months ago, COVID-19 remains a topic enshrouded in confusion, conflicting information, hyperbole, and even conspiracy theories. Everyone, informed or not, seems to have an opinion about the coronavirus pandemic.
Fortunately, health systems, hospitals, and medical providers are uniquely qualified to fill the educational void and assert a leadership position within their communities.
In this week’s podcast, my friend and frequent guest, Dr. Jim Merlino shares how Cleveland Clinic’s free advisory service, COVID-19: Creating a Safe Workplace, helps employers and employees, “return to work, safely and confidently during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Listen to the podcast or read the transcript to discover:
Why educating the public is such a vital responsibility for providers to embrace
How Cleveland Clinic was able to leverage its expertise and preparation for COVID-19 into an effective educational program for employers
Why executive leadership is essential for larger missions like these
Surprising new insights about how the coronavirus spreads
How large and small institutions can take similar leadership positions within their communities
Finally, please help educate the public by sharing COVID-19: Creating a Safe Workplace website with employers, patients, coworkers, colleagues, friends, family, and social media.
Note: The following ‘How Cleveland Clinic Helps Employers Create a Safer Workplace During COVID-19′ podcast transcript is computer generated and edited for clarity.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
Hi everybody, Stewart Gandolf here with another podcast featuring absolutely one of my favorite guests and personal friend, Dr. Jim Merlino. He is Chief Clinical Transformation Officer with Cleveland Clinic, now back at the Clinic after some excellent time with Press Ganey. Welcome Jim, first of all.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Thanks Stewart. Always great to talk with you.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
In preparation for this meeting, we spent some time talking about, catching up how the world is very different than the last time Jim and I spoke. Last time we talked was pre COVID, pre Jim moving over to Cleveland Clinic. Things have changed quite a bit since then, obviously. And I think today we’re going to talk about a topic that I think is really, really important, which is getting the word out, leveraging the pulpit of healthcare providers. As the most trusted people in America, doctors, hospitals, health systems have a unique opportunity to educate the public. And I was talking offline with Jim prior to doing this, how during the very, very early days of the pandemic, some of our blog posts were about this topic. Back when everything was absolutely uncertain, and the world was going crazy. Our firm went virtual about a week or two ahead of everybody else, right about the same time that Stanford went virtual, before it became mandatory.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
I was telling Jim, we have some friends that sent us predictions on what this pandemic was going to look like. So we went virtual really mostly for public good at that stage, even though some of my employees thought I was crazy, and we spent a lot of time writing in our blogs of how you can, as a provider, be part of the solution, get the word out. Can you post on social media? Can you talk to your patients? Can you send emails? How can you be a voice? And that was before any of this stuff had widely happened within our surrounding communities. We just had a sense there’d be a need for authoritative information to supplement what’s happening in the more official channels.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
So anyway, Jim and I were talking about this and in true fashion with Cleveland Clinic, with the leadership role that the clinic takes in terms of public health, began an advisory service. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today. And Jim, I’d love to hear from you, how this all began, the mission. This is your format. Let’s just talk. Tell me about the advisory service and maybe the history of it to start.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Sure Stewart. Well, again, it’s really great to be doing a podcast with you again, and I really always enjoy our conversations and the insights that you bring to the industry through your work as well. It’s interesting. Healthcare obviously is on the front lines with the pandemic response and taking care of people who are affected by COVID. But we actually, I think, have a bigger responsibility and that is to help society reactivate and also function safely in the era of COVID because we clearly are in an environment now where COVID is with us. Whether you believe it or not, it’s here. It’s not going away until there’s a treatment or an effective vaccine. It’s just going to be a part of what we do.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
I think one of the things that we’ve learned in healthcare, and it’s not just true for Cleveland Clinic, it’s true for healthcare across the world, is that we understand how to keep people safe. And for the most part, I think healthcare has done that and you see different statistics on healthcare worker infectivity, but there are a lot of organizations across the country that have kept their workers safe. We had over 1100 caregivers infected with COVID. We’re confident, because of the contact tracing that we’ve put in place, that we can say we don’t believe any of those caregivers received COVID from taking care of a COVID positive patient, but that’s not without effort. It’s because of the safety measures that we’ve put in place, the teams of people that we’ve had together since the beginning of this pandemic that have really studied these issues and really debated about what are the best things that we need to do, or the safest things that we need to do.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
So with all of that in mind and understanding that the tsunami was coming towards us very quickly, we did a lot of preparation. We were very fortunate, in Northeast Ohio, that the tsunami didn’t hit us like it did in other parts of the country like New York or Washington. But nevertheless, we did see COVID, we did take care of a lot of patients, we’re still taking care of a lot of patients, but we learned a lot.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
And as we saw that the tsunami wasn’t going to hit us as hard as we thought it was going to, we were able to now take the information that we’d prepared for our organization and actually retune it or reformat it so that we could push it out to the public; to businesses, to churches, to educational institutions, so that others could use it. We started getting a lot of incoming early from different businesses and other organizations that needed help, and we wanted to be helpful. Cleveland Clinic has four cares, care for community, care for organization, care for caregivers and care for patients, and we very much see this as part of our responsibility to help care for the community.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
And I’ll just add one more thing, and that is that it’s interesting that if you think about managing diseases, for most diseases, we’ve had decades to study them. For COVID, everything we know about this disease has really come in the last six months or less, and we’re learning new things every day. We’re clarifying things every day. And so the most important resource that we’ve been able to provide to partners outside of healthcare is really interpreting what’s going on and translating that information to what they do every day so they can keep their employees, their customers safe. It’s been interesting work. It’s been fascinating to be a part of, it’s been an honor to be a part of it, to help others. We think it’s really meaningful and impactful.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
The Cleveland Clinic, as I mentioned earlier, the idea of being in your community, a thought leader, a healthcare thought leader, and Cleveland Clinic clearly does that not just in its community, but from a world scope. Is that part of the clinic’s DNA? How has that evolved, this idea of we’re trying to be something more than just the provider? We want to really be a thought leader. How did that evolve and how does that sustain?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Cleveland Clinic has always prided itself on being an organization that’s innovative and trying to do things that benefit others, and that’s just part of our DNA. We’re actually coming up on a 100 year anniversary this year. It’s interesting the last pandemic was 100 years ago. We’re 100 years old, but it is really in our DNA, and it’s also part of the focus of our CEO, Dr. Tom Mihaljevic. He believes that we should be doing things as much as we can to really push hard and trying to figure out ways to evolve healthcare. And I think the work we’re doing with COVID response is part of that. And again, we don’t have the license on best practices. I think one of the benefits of COVID, if there’s any benefit, because there aren’t many for sure, is how people have worked together across the country. Other healthcare organizations across the world have come together to share information. And what we’ve been able to do is really just help package that so that we can help others understand what to do and be safe.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
It is interesting, one thing about the Cleveland Clinic, one of the things I think that makes the Cleveland Clinic unique, there’s a lot, I’m certainly biased, is that we have a network of hospitals and healthcare institutions across the world. And what was striking about COVID … And we were meeting every day. During the heart of the pandemic, we were meeting twice a day, and all of our sites were dialed in. It was the ability to learn from each other. So a truly integrated network where you’re getting information from Abu Dhabi, you’re getting information from London, from Florida, from Las Vegas, from Toronto, and all of that’s feeding into your decision making. And what was most fascinating is everybody was experiencing this a little differently. So for instance, our operations overseas was able to give us some early warning into some of the things that they were seeing and also how they were responding to it, and that directly impacted our responses in the States, both in Cleveland and Florida. So it was a very interesting time to be a part of such an important integrated delivery system.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
Jim that totally makes sense. I feel like obviously Cleveland Clinic has some amazing resources with multiple locations and a hundred year history and an incredible medical team and support teams. At the level of maybe a community hospital or a group practice or any level, but let’s maybe take a step, just one step down, a single hospital or a couple of hospitals, or just a large group, what would be important if they too feel like, “Okay, we’re not Cleveland Clinic. We can’t be, but we want to be that kind of a thought leader here in Topeka or Poughkeepsie or wherever.” What kind of recommendations, before we get into the specifics of your advisory service, but what have you learned they can use to … What would be the couple of things that you’d really want to have in place so that yes, raise your hand, be a colleague with us, help us get the word out. What kinds of things do you think would be important for that?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
I don’t think you have to be Cleveland Clinic to be helpful to your community. I think if you likely look across the nation and talk to healthcare providers in other systems, I’ve certainly talked to many of my colleagues around the country. For the most part, we’re all coordinating. We’re all driving the same things. When we think about changing a policy, for instance, around visitors, we reach out to our colleagues, my friends. I reach out to my colleagues, reach out to their friends. We really are trying to bring information together. I think that’s probably true for a lot of providers.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
But what I would say to smaller organizations, regardless of where they are and whether they’re a hospital or a practice, or a couple doc or a provider group that’s providing care, you know what to do. Likely you’ve been delivering care in COVID, and the information that you have available to you, how you think about this, the clarity that you bring to that process will be helpful to partners that are in your community, because this is complicated and it really requires a thoughtful approach to keep people safe, but an approach we know we can do.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
And I think that what I would say to anybody that’s listening that may be practicing in a smaller environment is talk to people in your community and ask them how you can be helpful, ask them how you can translate what’s going on around COVID to impact how they can keep themselves, their employees and their customers safe. They need us. They don’t just need us to take care of sick people. They need us to provide guidance. And this is such an opportunity for healthcare in the United States and across the world to really step into a role, to do much more than we’ve probably done in the past, relative to things going on in the community.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
You mentioned your CEO, and that’s so often the case, the idea of … Because I could see how you’re a busy hospital located in whichever town you are and you may not have the resources, but I think it’s more than just resources. It’s more of your vision of how you fit in the community because it’d be really easy and certainly forgivable. We’re just treating patients here. We don’t have time to do this high fluid and visionary stuff. We just have to take care of patients and I totally get it. But I guess it comes down to maybe the vision of the CEO and the leadership of what role, maybe a larger role than just treating patients. Does that makes sense Jim?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Absolutely, and it also comes to getting back to the role of your hospital. If you think about the history of healthcare in the United States and how it evolved, a big part of it was community centric and most hospitals are community hospitals. And they were formed by municipalities coming together, putting money in to build a hospital to take care of people in the community. So it really is getting back to the roots. I remember one of my first roles in healthcare, I was a board member in a community hospital in the city that I grew up in, actually where I was born. And it was a hospital that was built in early sixties by seven communities coming together. One donated the land, everybody threw in some money and before you know it, you had a hospital. And today, that’s part of a big healthcare system in Cleveland. It’s doing amazing stuff, but that’s what we’re about in healthcare. So taking care of our neighbors, caring for the sick, but also providing information to the community on how to stay healthy, which is just, when you think about it, that’s noble.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
We’ve talked about in some of the other relevant webinars and podcasts I’ve been doing surrounding this topic. If you haven’t, first of all, it’s for the good, to get the word out, but also that’s the primary reason. We’re in this for healthcare. We’re in this to serve our community. But from a business standpoint too, it’s to take the leadership because if there’s a void in the marketplace to be a positive force, we’re not doing it for that, but that’s a good thing too. We want to be more than just that big building that people fear or may have had … Everybody has their own relationship with the community hospital. They’ve typically been part of the community for years, but to be that kind of thought leader, I think is important. And all the things we’ve talked about in the past like, and I’m going to dive into the advisory service in a moment here, but the social media, the emails, and talking to patients, the safety videos, showing them how you care, showing them how the heroes, the everyday stories, showing them how they’re going to be safe are all important.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
So from there, I’d love to segue to more about the advisor service. Tell me about how do you deliver it and what is it? How much does it cost, if anything? How do they deliver it? What the purpose is, all that. I’m fascinated.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Thanks for asking. We are too in terms of how quickly it’s really grown into something. And first of all, it’s free so that makes it easy for people to consider it.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
You did it!
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
All of our listeners need to write this down, they can just write this down. Free is good. So yeah.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Free is good. Well sometimes free is not good. You always wonder what the intent is or if there is something behind the curtain, but no, this is free. And it hasn’t costed us much because we really just take in what we do every day for our caregivers and repackaged it so it’s a little easier for people who are not in medicine to understand. So we have a website that on that website, we have multiple industry playbooks that we’ve assembled that break down in simple terms how to think about keeping people safe. So there’s one for restaurants, for instance, manufacturing, office environment. They’re on the website. They’re all free. They’re all downloadable. They’re all easy to read. They all have a basic template that talks about the basics of COVID and safety, and then that portion that deals with the specific environment. They’re not that long.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
We built a playbook around how to better communicate with people, your employees, customers during this time, how to communicate with empathy because certainly, healthcare workers aren’t the only ones that are being stressed. Everybody’s being stressed on something so we thought that would be important. We do weekly webinars with our experts. So infectious disease, epidemiology, testing, HR to provide insight, to help employers, organizations keep their employees mentally fit and exercising their minds and healthy at home. We have a long running list of frequently asked questions that are posted as new information becomes available. Again, translated into simple terms, what do you do if somebody in your office tests positive for COVID? What do you do if somebody has symptoms? What do you do if somebody has a family member? What do you do if somebody gets exposed? Again, it’s just breaking down on all the things that people worry about. And all of that’s on the website, which I’ll share with you. It’s clevelandclinic.org/covid19atwork. Once again, clevelandclinic.org/covid19atwork.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
And what’s interesting about the material and the reaction to it, as I said earlier, is that it’s been a service because people just want to know what is going on, what the information they need to be concerned about really is. Cutting through the media, the conflicting news reports, the things they read, and then translating it into what to do. And that’s been very rewarding because I think that’s the clarity that we’ve been able to bring in. And frankly Stewart, as you would suspect, in some cases we just don’t know and we say it, but everything is guided by CDC guidance, what the scientific evidence is demonstrating. And then if there’s no gold standard to go to, it’s the best clinical judgment based on a pool of experts. I’ll give you one example that’s very public, which is our relationship with United Airlines.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
So Cleveland Clinic’s had a long relationship with United and it’s been our corporate partner. And during the worst part of the pandemic, the darkest days of the pandemic when New York City was being clobbered, we sent a team of physicians and nurses to help out, and United was kind enough to fly them there and fly them back. And we got into a discussion about what they needed because they were asking, “We’re trying to figure out how to keep people safe while flying, how to keep our people safe. Would you be able to provide some input to us?” And then we said, “Absolutely. We’re here. Let’s talk about it.”
Dr. Jim Merlino:
And so, and again, sharing with permission and we started going through the material and they were very sophisticated. As you would expect, it’s a big company, the airlines. When it comes to safety, they all talk to each other. They think about this all the time. They’re very sophisticated and they had a lot of great material and we provided input based on what we saw as the science around what they were doing. They adapted some things that we suggested that they didn’t think about. They changed some things that they probably didn’t need to do. But that, I think, has probably made flying safer.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
And what’s interesting about flying right now is so certainly airline travel has significantly decreased, but planes never stopped flying and they didn’t put in the safety precautions. And yet, we don’t yet think we have a confirmed case of, there may be one we don’t know of, but we haven’t traced the case of COVID through airline transmissions. It’s probably coming as community spread increases and flying increases. But I think right now, we feel comfortable that we haven’t seen it. But the interesting thing is that, relative to United, is they were the first airline to mandate masks, and that was one piece of advice that we had given them, and they were very, very aggressive about it. They said, “Okay. If you tell us that that’s important, we will do it and we will enforce it.” And as you know now, all the airlines are doing it.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
So I think that’s a good partnership because the last thing I would say, and then I’ll shut up, is that it’s not just what the businesses or the hospitals need to be doing to keep us safe. This is a social contract. We have to be doing things to keep ourselves safe. If we go onto an airplane, we should need to wear a mask. We shouldn’t refuse to do that. We shouldn’t protest like, “We don’t have to do that.” No, you need to do that. That’s your responsibility. When you go to an environment where you’re working, like a hospital, where we know we can keep you safe. When you go home, you have to think about how to continue to keep you safe.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
I have a colleague, Dr. Steve Gordon, he’s our chair of infectious disease. He’s internationally renowned. He says, “Listen, COVID gets in healthcare, for healthcare workers, COVID gets into the back door, which is they come to work, they have all the precautions, they’re safe. They go home, they do something they shouldn’t have done. They drop their guard, they get infected.” That’s the backdoor and that’s the thing we have to close by being very mindful. We all have a role. COVID doesn’t discriminate and everybody in the world right now, everyone, and think about that. Everyone in the world is susceptible to it. So we all have a responsibility in this. We’re all in it together.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
It’s fascinating when I think about that and it’s interesting too, because the idea of airplanes, and I didn’t know that. I didn’t know there’s no documented cases for airlines having COVID. So there’s so much fear out there, misinformation and what I really like about the idea that you guys are doing this is beyond it’s helping me us all safer, but curating it, helping people understand what’s real, what’s not, how do you do that? Is there any secret to that? Because that’s very … Just that one little anecdote I think is really important.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
We have a big team and we talk about things, and so I’ll give you an example. During the heart of the pandemic, one of the biggest concerns … Well, during the start of the pandemic. We’re in the heart of the pandemic. There was a big concern about PPE, personal protective equipment. One of the top concerns was we’re going to run out. The tsunami is coming, we’re going to run out and what are we going to do? But yet you can’t ration it because you can’t cut corners. You can’t say to people, “You don’t need it there,” or, “Don’t use it this way.” It just wasn’t an option. So we had a team of people, of about 10 people, probably a little more, that really were meeting every day to talk about how do you manage PPE? What’s the best way to do it? How do you account for supply chain issues? How do you model out how much you have, and what’s your run rate on PPE?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
But it’s a statement of how experts come together to really tackle the smallest of problems that are really huge problems. That’s been our approach for everything, is we’ve had teams of professionals that are really experts in this space that have worked on these issues.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Is my dog barking?
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
That’s part of COVID. It’s perfectly OK to have dogs barking!
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Einstein my labradoodle.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
Oh my gosh. When we go offline, I’ll put my camera so you can see my dog. I have a labradoodle too. He’s enormous.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Oh, I have a miniature. Oh yeah! We got to do it!
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
Going back to the curation and United in that, again, thought leadership, I fly on a different airline. I have about three million miles. As you know, I travel a lot as you do too. And at the beginning of the pandemic, there was news reports about them being very spotty with requiring masks. So they lost me for a long time because I’m not getting on a plane if this has become a political statement with the person sitting next to me. I want to be safe and that whole idea of we’re all responsible, I think is really important. And it’s great that you guys are doing that. I think also, I want to ask about this. You mentioned restaurants and I don’t know if you guys do bars, but even offices. So this is very real to me today.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
So literally last night, I mentioned we went virtual earlier and I’ve just been very conservative about this. And people who know me know I’m not doing this from a fear standpoint, I’m doing it from a public health standpoint. So we shut down early, not because I was paranoid about getting COVID, but more you don’t know who you’re impacting. And I have a bunch of a team and it turned out actually we could have had a near miss with COVID had we stayed open very much longer, which I won’t go into.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
What kind of response have you gotten? Because I know from our standpoint, that’s going to be fantastically helpful to have an authority because again, we’re not experts at this. Yeah, I market healthcare, doesn’t mean I’m a doctor. It doesn’t mean I don’t have any expertise in COVID. I read a lot, but I don’t feel comfortable with my employees safety and their relatives’ safety by making these decisions. So by guiding, having a sense of trusted authority to go to makes me feel a whole lot better. I don’t know if you have anything to add to that, and certainly what kind of reaction have you gotten from doing this?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
A good reaction. I think one of the biggest concerns of patients is coming back to healthcare for elective procedures or not urgent procedures is will they be safe? And the answer is yes, they will be. And I think that that’s the same thing that employees want to know coming back to work or staying working. Will they be safe? And the answer is, yes, you will. However, and it’s a but, and that is you have to follow the rules. You have to be thoughtful. When your employer executes on a mask policy, you should follow the rules and wear the mask. When you have the ability to sanitize your hands, you should sanitize your hands.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Look, the way we talk about these protections, these layers of protection, is that there’s something called the Swiss cheese model. In safety science for the military, for the airlines or healthcare, we assume that events are trying to hurt people and we enact barriers, and each barrier is like a piece of Swiss cheese. It blocks some things, but it has holes and it lets some things through. But the more pieces of Swiss cheese, the more barriers you line up, the better protective screen you can build to prevent those things from hurting people. And so when we think about precautions that employers put together; masking, social distancing, hand-washing, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, education about how to keep yourself safe at home. None of those are perfect. Some are better than others, but collectively, they create a pretty strong barrier.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
And again, going back to healthcare experience, we know that we can keep people safe if they follow the rules and they have to be mindful about it. Again, I think the message is that if we do the right thing and we execute on what we know works, we can keep people safe and that should be the message. But again, part of that message needs to be that you have a responsibility as well. So when you leave the workplace, you want to be concerned about what you’re doing, who you’re interacting with, how you’re behaving, because you want to keep yourself safe at home as equally as much as you want to keep yourself safe at work.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
My wife went through a procedure right when things started to open up again and I told her, “Hey, this is a window. It’s probably going to bad again pretty quickly. Jump on now.” So she got her elective procedure done whenever that was. And so she went through it and it was amazing. They really had thought it through the whole, from the start to finish, how they greeted her in the parking lot, how they did all the way through. And then my wife said, “But the one thing is one nurse looked down and said, “This mask is just stupid. We don’t really need this.” And so that one, and fortunately, she kept her mask on, but obviously, didn’t have total buy in at an individual level. And that’s really what this requires, is a bunch of individuals doing stuff right, and even it’s … Maybe I’ll just argue, okay, you don’t believe it, but just suspend disbelief for me. Would you please? Because at the end of the day, that’s what we need.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
And I think the other point that you bring up is the importance of responsibility because, okay, great. This is so insightful to me, the idea of, okay, we have all this PPE. Who thought that your most dangerous experiences are not at the hospital, it’s when you go home? If you’re not being careful? Is that what you’re saying essentially, that the most dangerous part of your day, if you were treating COVID patients, is if you’re going home and being irresponsible?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Well, I think that the biggest opening for risk is that. I wouldn’t say it’s the most dangerous. If you’re an ICU physician or a nurse taking care of COVID positive patients, that’s dangerous work. But I think if you’re following the precautions and you’re using them, you can keep yourself safe. So you have to be very mindful about that. It’s no different than any other environment where the risk of getting hurt is real if you’re not following safety precautions.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
But the need to be paying attention to safety doesn’t stop when you leave. And you don’t need to wear an N95 mask and gown at home, but you do need to be thinking about potential exposure opportunities, who you’re communicating with, making sure you’re avoiding large groups, quarantining yourself if you’re exposed to somebody. So that continuum of safety really stretches everywhere, not just where you’re working, regardless of what you do for a living.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
As we come into the home stretch here, I’d love to get any final comments you have, but I guess maybe starting with that would be to give you a place to start is what is the advice you would give to pastor of a church or the owner of a bar, or an office? All of us say to you with exasperation, “Dr. Merlino, I’m a pastor. I don’t know anything about this stuff.” What would you tell them? Obviously go to your side, but what’s maybe the philosophy or?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
I think the philosophy is to be cautiously optimistic. Number one, we will get through this. It’s not going to be without costs and it’s not going to be easy, but we will get through this. And I think it’s really important that as my boss, Dr. Tom Mihaljevic says, you have to keep perspective because we will get through this. The second thing I would say is to educate yourself and learn as much as you can. Pay attention to sites that are reputable. Don’t make your decisions based on what you’re hearing or what you’re reading on news outlets. Pay attention to medical sites and use that as your guidance. And stay up to date because the information changes. We’ve evolved a lot of our thinking on COVID. When the pandemic first started here in the United States, my wife and I were wiping down our groceries. You don’t need to do that.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
So pay attention to what’s changing and use common sense and be diligent about the procedures. A mask needs to cover your nose and mouth. It can’t just cover your mouth. It can’t be worn at your neck. It has to be worn the right way. You have to have precautions in place, or I’m sorry, protocols in place to think about what you do if somebody gets COVID in the workplace. Don’t wait for it to happen. Plan ahead. So those are the things that I would tell businesses. Those are the things that I tell businesses.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
There’s been times where I’ve been in situations here in California, which was at the beginning, was in the leadership position. Now, not so much, where nobody’s wearing a mask and it’s even me knowing what I know, there’s that social pressure to not wear a mask and I wear it anyway. And so I think that’s important to recognize there’ll be times that are probably challenging and do what the experts telling you. Not just because everybody else is not wearing it does not mean, “Well, they’re doing it.” It’s not safe.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
Because that’s really what I think happens. They just said, “Well, nobody’s doing it. I guess it’s okay. It’s a sunny day and nobody’s sick.” And on the other hand, to not freak out and not be paralyzed because we have to go through life. And it sounds like, which is very heartening to hear the optimism in there that there are ways to get through this. And if we’re following the basics and I love, again, the Swiss cheese model, because that’s where I think … Maybe my last comment and then if you have anything else you can add up is perfection is the enemy of good. So in this case, if you’re thinking it’s just overwhelming. If I want to be 100% safe, I’d be lying in the sun, by myself with an N95 mask on, with the wind blowing at 100 miles an hour. It’s like, well, so then if you’re paralyzed and you’re afraid to do anything.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
But maybe the odds are, and maybe you can tell me this clinically, all right, if you’re having dinner outside, you’re six feet away or 10 feet away, it becomes like you overreact and just don’t have life and it becomes undoable. Do you have any comments on that? Because it feels like that’s where people get into trouble. They either, well, this is just too hard, they do nothing, or they end up with no health issues because they’re trying to do absolute perfection, which is maybe not as necessary. Any comment on that?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Yeah. It’s like people who have obsessive compulsive disorder. People who suffer from that, they have to do specifically sometimes over and over again. That’s not what this is about. This is about really just understanding what are the few things that are capable of keeping you safe when they’re done together and just being vigilant about it. You can go to a restaurant that’s appropriately set up for social distancing and where people are wearing masks. You can sit at the table with your spouse and take your masks off if servers are masked. Those things are safe. I’ve done it. I’ve flown. My wife and I flew to Florida the first two weeks of July and we wore our masks. Everybody on the plane had a mask on. We went out to eat but we went out to eat in restaurants that we knew were following the precautions. And we were very, very careful about observing our environment because we weren’t going to walk into a situation that would put us at risk.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
But the point is you can do things. You don’t have to live in a bubble. You just have to be vigilant. And I would add, one of my closing comments would be the biggest thing we worry about in healthcare with any safety precaution or process is fatigue. People forgetting it, or people getting comfortable with it. We have to be mindful. We have to stay vigilant because that’s how we’ll keep ourselves safe. So we can’t relax our guard, so to speak, as we’re continuing to live with this pandemic.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
That totally makes sense, and for obviously the vast majority of our audience here is in health care. They live this every day and hopefully, some of those insights will help you communicate with your patients or your constituents and your employees too. We haven’t talked about this, and maybe just a second before we close here, your own employees at the hospital, they’re still people too and there probably is still some fear there. So any comments to the providers that are listening here or one final comments of how to get the word out to employees or to your patients?
Dr. Jim Merlino:
Well, to the providers, thank you, because I know that everyone in the provider space is working very hard to do the right thing, to keep themselves safe, to take care of patients, and it’s hard, so thank you. Again, I think it just comes back to emphasizing safety. We have to keep talking about it. We have to remind people about it. We have to reinforce it. That’s the message.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA:
Very good. Jim, as always, it’s been fun and fantastic talking to you, insightful. Love your thought leadership, love what you and your team are doing. Thank you.
Dr. Jim Merlino:
My pleasure. Thank you, Stewart. It’s always great to talk with you about these issues.
School leaders in Elk Grove, California, wanted to leave as little to chance as possible. So they brought nearly 150 voices into their decision-making process, and canvassed the parents of the estimated 63,000 students in the district to ask how they wanted their children taught. The result was a four-item menu of instruction choices for the coming academic year, none featuring a full campus.
About 45 minutes down Interstate 5 in California’s Central Valley, seven trustees in Manteca took a 5-2 vote: School would resume on campus, at full classroom capacity, five days a week. Parents would have the option to enroll children in a 100% online academy — although it didn’t yet exist. After a protest from teachers and the health department, the district later relented and agreed to put students on campus for five days every two weeks.
Two districts in the same part of the world; two groups of educators and families; two substantially different decisions. This is education in the age of the pandemic.
While the national conversation whipsaws between President Donald Trump’s threats to cut funding to districts that don’t fully open and some health experts’ warnings that crowded campuses could be petri dishes of disease, school districts are grinding forward amid the chaos of conflicting information. Trying to track the moving target of COVID-19 and the state orders that move with it, while facing parent pushback and political manipulation, board members and teachers sometimes feel they are running the gauntlet.
“These decisions are subject to constant revision,” said Nancy Chaires Espinoza, a board member with the Elk Grove district. “Every few days or once a week, we learn something new that changes the way we approach things — even the physical arrangement of the classrooms.”
With a public school enrollment of more than 6 million and a population still firmly gripped by the giant first wave of the coronavirus, California’s attempts to answer the school question have been many — and mostly futile. The Los Angeles school district announced that its entire system, the nation’s second-largest, would be 100% online to begin the academic year. In Marin County, north of San Francisco, the plan was for a full reopening on campus, with no distance learning offered.
Wildly differing decisions up and down the state reflect its geographical and demographic diversity. It may be easier, for instance, to consider full-class learning in smaller or more rural districts, where physical distancing is a more realistic goal. In any case, neither the federal government nor the state sets the policy for any individual district. That is up to school boards and trustees.
Elk Grove, near Sacramento, is the state’s fifth-largest district; it has an active board that receives plenty of parental input. The district closed down schools the first week of March, well before most districts in the state, after members of a student’s family tested positive for COVID-19. Elk Grove offered distance learning for the rest of the spring.
In the months since, school leaders have tried to incorporate parents’ preferences, teachers’ concerns, the cost of constantly disinfecting and sanitizing more than 60 campuses and, of course, the science. Consensus on that last part is lacking, however; while some experts warn that opening schools is a nightmare scenario, others point to the evidence that children for the most part don’t transmit COVID-19.
According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people under 18 account for fewer than 2% of COVID cases in the U.S., despite representing 22% of the population. But it’s far less clear to what extent schoolkids carrying the virus might pass it to their teachers, parents and other members of their communities.
“There are still a ton of questions to be answered,” said Chris Nixon, an elementary-school teacher in Elk Grove. Nixon and his wife, Tina, who is a teacher in the district as well, have two football-playing sons at Sheldon High School, one of the district’s nine high school campuses.
Elk Grove’s approach includes a “transitional” hybrid of staggered in-class cohorts plus remote learning; distance learning only; a charter school system heavy on independent study; and a virtual-only academy for grades K-8. Parents may choose the option that best fits their family’s needs.
“I just don’t see how social distancing is possible with full classes, and my wife and I would be concerned about teaching in that environment,” Nixon said. But he’s unsure what the transitional approach — classrooms in the mornings, distance teaching in the afternoon — will look like. “We really haven’t been provided with a model to show how it works, so we’ll see,” he said.
And there are no sure things. Elk Grove’s emergency attempt at distance learning in the spring was not well received, one reason that trustee Carmine Forcina argued at a June board meeting for reopening. Parents, teachers and students told him that remote learning had been “videos, self-teaching and extended vacations. That’s unacceptable.”
“I am on record supporting a full return to school with a full complement of activities, along with a quality distance-learning program for those not comfortable with returning to school,” Forcina told California Healthline.
That one-two approach is closer to what happened in Manteca, which has 24,000 students. It happened quickly, too: Meeting in June, the school board voted to open all campuses for the fall.
“They voted to go back every day, all day, with class sizes up to 34 students and no [mandatory] masks — but we get hand sanitizer,” said Ken Johnson, a teacher for 39 years and president of the Manteca Educators’ Association. Teachers had no input on the online academy, class size, working conditions or safety protocols, he said. “A lot of our teachers are freaked out, as well they should be with the recent events.”
The district laid out an array of possible on-campus safety measures, including limiting visitor access, strongly encouraging the wearing of masks and requiring daily temperature self-checks for staff and students. After teachers protested and county health officials “strongly recommended” to begin the school year with only distance learning, a modified plan — five days in the classroom, followed by five online — was hatched during an emergency board session. Details were to be determined.
Manteca’s approach is unusual in California. Liability concerns may be one reason few districts reviewed by KHN have seriously considered full classrooms on everyday schedules. A state bill was introduced to shield districts from COVID-related lawsuits as long as they follow state and local health directives, but its fate is uncertain.
“If [Manteca] does not lay out a clear plan on how kids will remain safe, then there is no point in opening schools back up,” said David Garcia. Garcia, a tech specialist in the private sector, is able to work from home and said he and his wife will take the online-only option for their sixth-grade son.
“At home we have the necessary items to keep ourselves safe,” he said, while overwhelmed teachers won’t be able to manage amid COVID precautions. “If in regular times teachers have to ask for donations to do their jobs, how can we expect them to do it now, in these times?”
In both Manteca and Elk Grove, teachers say they want to be back on campus and in classrooms. “With all of the challenges to the other models, I don’t see how it can be argued that any of them beat the educational benefits of a traditional full-class model,” said Elk Grove’s Nixon. “Unfortunately, we just aren’t there yet.”
Congressional leaders are squaring off over the next pandemic relief bill in a debate over whom Congress should step up to protect: front-line workers seeking more safeguards from the ravages of COVID-19 or beleaguered employers seeking relief from lawsuits.
Democrats want to enact an emergency standard meant to bolster access to protective gear for health care and other workers and to bar employers from retaliating against them for airing safety concerns.
Republicans seek immunity for employers from lawsuits related to the pandemic, an effort they say would give businesses the confidence to return to normal. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene later this month.
The debate reflects a deepening schism between the major political parties, with Democrats focused on protecting lives and Republicans focused on protecting livelihoods.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed frustration over efforts to pass an emergency worker-protection standard, which keeps running into GOP resistance.
“They’re saying ‘Let’s give immunity — no liability — for employers,’” Pelosi said. “We’re saying the best protection for the employer is to protect the workers.”
Nearly 98,000 health care workers have contracted the novel coronavirus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that the agency acknowledges is an undercount. KHN and The Guardian have identified more than 780 who have died and have told the personal stories of 139 of them.
In May, the House passed a $3 trillion relief bill that would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to put in place an emergency standard that would call on employers to create a plan based, in part, on CDC or OSHA guidance to protect workers from COVID-19.
It would cover health care workers and also those “at occupational risk of exposure to COVID19.” The measure would allow workers to bring protective gear “if not provided by the employer.” Similar rules in place in California health care workers have come under fire for offering little added protection.
In action, the new measure would allow OSHA inspectors to request to review an employers’ plan and hold them accountable for following it, said David Michaels, former U.S. assistant secretary of Labor and OSHA administrator, who has called for such a standard. Federal guidance is currently optional, not required.
“Many employers want to be law-abiding,” Michaels said, “and they know they risk enforcement and possibly a monetary fine if they don’t attempt to do this.”
Top Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, have called for better worker protections, while GOP leaders have called for stronger employer protections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that the next pandemic relief bill include immunity for employers against coronavirus-related lawsuits.
“If we do another bill, it will have liability protections in it for doctors, for hospitals, for nurses, for businesses, for universities, for colleges,” McConnell said July 1. “Nobody knew how to deal with the coronavirus,” he said, and unless they’ve committed gross negligence or intentional harm, those parties should be protected from an “epidemic of lawsuits.”
He has proposed a five-year period of immunity from December 2019 through 2024. (McConnell’s office declined to comment for this story.)
Such a measure could derail lawsuits already filed by grieving family members such as Florence Dotson, the mother of 51-year-old certified nursing assistant Maurice Dotson, who died in April. Her son cared for nursing home residents with COVID-19 in Austin, Texas, and did not have proper personal protective equipment (PPE), her suit alleges. He later died of complications from the virus.
Another lawsuit alleges that an anonymous New York nurse requested but was denied proper PPE when she was assigned to care for a patient in intensive care with COVID-19 symptoms but who was tested for the virus only after death. The nurse, who contracted COVID-19 shortly after, is seeking $1 million in damages.
U.S. workers in every industry have filed more than 13,300 COVID-related complaints with OSHA, records show, demonstrating widespread concern over their lack of protection at work. Twenty-three complaints reference a fear of retaliation, including among hospital workers who say they were pressured to work while sick.
The agency has closed investigations into those complaints but is investigating 6,600 more open complaints. OSHA has so far issued one citation against an employer, a spokesperson confirmed.
Employers are also struggling, evidenced by layoffs and an 11% unemployment rate, which the Congressional Budget Office projects will hit 16% in the coming weeks.
States have taken some matters in their own hands during months of federal inaction. At least 25 states have created some degree of legal immunity for doctors or facilities, through new laws or executive orders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Officials in Virginia and Oregon have taken steps to enact their own heightened worker-protection rules related to the virus.
The effort to pass an OSHA rule to protect workers from infectious diseases dates to 2010, when regulators saw the need to better protect health care workers after the H1N1 flu pandemic.
Michaels, the former OSHA director under President Barack Obama, said the effort has stalled out under the Trump administration. Trump administration OSHA officials have defended their track record, saying adequate rules are in place to protect workers.
But a similar push succeeded in California in 2009. State officials passed a plan requiring health care employers to create a plan to protect health care workers from airborne viruses.
The California measure went further, requiring hospitals and nursing homes to stockpile or be prepared to supply workers with an N95 respirator — or an even more protective device — if treating patients with a virus like COVID-19.
Workplace safety experts in California, though, said it hasn’t worked as intended.
As more than 17,600 health care workers have become sick and 99 have died in the state, it’s become apparent that health care employers did not have plans in place, said Stephen Knight, executive director of Worksafe, a nonprofit focused on workplace safety.
“This was just a massive missed opportunity and one that cost people their lives,” Knight said. “People are just dying … with frightening regularity.”
California nurses who died after caring for COVID patients without an N95 respirator include Sandra Oldfield, 52, who wore a less-protective surgical mask while caring for a patient who wasn’t initially thought to have the virus.
A complaint to OSHA about a lack of N95 respirators that preceded her death put her hospital, Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center, in violation of the state’s standard, the state labor department confirmed.
However, alternative guidance is now in place because of global PPE shortages, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. Kaiser Permanente, which is not affiliated with KHN, confirmed that the patient was not initially thought to have COVID-19 and that the company has followed state, local and CDC guidance on patient screening and use of PPE.
Hospital officials, who have come out against a national OSHA standard, said the plans that were in place did not account for the scope of the current pandemic and global supply chain breakdown.
“It is not for a lack of caring or trying to keep our workers safe,” said Gail Blanchard-Saiger, vice president for labor and employment with the California Hospital Association.
Dana Callow, Executive Creative Director, Healthcare Success
COVID-19 has been a life-changing event for us all. It’s the kind of event that has lasting effects on people that we can’t even truly see just yet. We’ve thrust an entire population into a cycle of grief that is ubiquitous but unique to every person. How will the healthcare consumer, patient, and caregivers‘ needs, wants, and actions change now and in the future?
Meanwhile, has your creativestrategy, creativecommunications, and creativemessaging kept up? Which changes should you make now?
In preparing for a recent webinar, I asked our Executive Creative Director, Dana Callow, to share some of her ideas about COVID-era creative messaging. Dana has created award-winning healthcare marketingcampaigns for over 20 years and brings valuable personal and professional insights to today’s marketing challenges. I liked Dana’s ideas so much I interviewed her for this follow-up Podcast.
In case you don’t have time to listen to the recording, here is a synopsis of the most critical points we discussed. There is also a complete transcript of our discussion just below this synopsis:
Coronavirus and the stages of grief
The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross grief model helps explain how people deal with death and grief. It provides a useful context to understand the many ways people cope with extraordinarily difficult circumstances, such as their own impending death, the demise of a loved one, a financial crisis, or, as Dana suggests, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shock and Denial: We still have many people in this grief-phase, and some may never leave it. In the early days, the spring breakers were a perfect example of this behavior. Now that the country is reopening, others are resuming their lives with little to no thought about protecting themselves or others from the coronavirus.
Anger: Yes, some people have moved on, but others are still right there. Many people vehemently protest masks, guidelines, and restrictions. Worse, misinformation and conspiracy theories are now polarizing the nation, thereby threatening public safety as well.
Depression and Detachment: Many are still here, and won’t be able to move on until some sense of normalcy is restored. These are the folks who’ve gotten more quiet and introspective over time. You’ve seen this in your family, your coworkers, even that used to be a super happy cashier at the grocery store.
Dialogue & Bargaining: The vast majority of people are here and will stay here for quite some time. The good thing is they’re talking, reaching out, learning, responding. We need to support them and help them make their way to acceptance.
Acceptance: People are tip-toeing into this phase. These will be the resilient leaders who pave the way for others. Eventually, they will move on to “return to a meaningful life.”
Rethink your archetypes
Rethinking your healthcare archetypes is critical right now. Before you do anything, think about how your patient population might have evolved for better or for worse in their thinking, or even jumped from one archetype to another. While everyone around you will feel the need to move fast, it’s worth your time to reevaluate your audience before you push out messaging that might not resonate anymore.
Enter the new “COVID Resolutionists“
Many people are looking to respond to COVID-19 by taking this opportunity to make positive changes in their lives. Dana predicts that healthcare will be the highest priority on most people’s lists.
What will the “COVID Resolutionists” need from the healthcare system and their healthcare providers that is new and different as the battle marches on? How do we promote, embrace, and facilitate all of those who are now more motivated to act on their health and wellness positively? How do we think about and protect those that might be internalizing toxic levels of stress?
The people who were already obsessed with health and wellness are going to be even more obsessed. Wanting to “get ahead of the health game, they will move forward with or without our help.
There is also going to be a large group of people who took their health for granted (did some things right, some things not so right) who will be seriously stepping up their game. They’ll want to make sure they know whether or not they have any underlying conditions. Expect to see a rise in everything from colonoscopies to mammograms, skin cancer checks, etc. Expect lots of new questions from avid Googlers about diets, exercise plans, vitamins and supplements, proactive screenings, etc.
The deniers with comorbidities will also have changed, at least a portion of them. Whether motivated by fear or the urging of their families, they’re going to try and step up to the plate. They’re going to be terrible at it, as they weren’t successful before. They’ll need encouragement as they begin to reach out. They’ll also need real strategies and tactics to help them get going, and even more strategies and tactics to promote adherence. The rest of this group will likely take the “head in the sand” approach and keep on as they have. However, many of them may be internalizing real fears that will only exacerbate their existing conditions.
The worriers – have never been more worried. Not only will they obsess about every symptom, but they will see the world more differently than others. It will be far more contextual for them. They’ll need your reassurance. They, too, will be prone to toxic levels of stress that could negatively impact their mental and physical health. You’ll need to listen to these folks very carefully and be ready to help them address mental health issues/needs.
Begin your new creative approach now
What does all of this mean? It means you can’t just look at anyone on the surface and take their actions or behavior at face value. There is a huge danger right now that we misjudge consumer behavior as having moved beyond grief, when in fact, they haven’t even started.
And what happens with any resurgence? It’s a measure twice, cut once across your segments. Constant monitoring to facilitate evolutions in your reopening messaging is going to be critical.
Finally, if you’d like to explore how Dana, I, and the rest of our team could help you with your COVID-19 related marketing challenges, please let us know.
Note: The following transcript is computer generated and may not be 100% accurate.
Hi again everybody. This is Stewart Gandolf. Welcome to another podcast. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing our Executive Creative Director, Dana Callow. Dana has extensive experience, many years of experience writing and creating campaigns for healthcare. As we’ve been working together with some of our client projects, a lot of concepts come out, a lot of cool creative ideas come out constantly. Both of us are pretty philosophical about the current COVID pandemic. Dana has lots of great insights about how the creative strategy should change given that we’re in this pandemic. First of all, welcome, Dana.
Thank you. Happy to be here.
Yes. Glad to have you. Dana, before we get started, I could brag about you all day, but I’d like to have you brag about yourself a little, just if you could give us, our listeners a sense of your background and how that relates to today’s topic at least. Not the whole thing, obviously, but just where these insights are coming from.
Sure. As you well know, I’m an agency veteran. I’ve been in the agency world marketing across a plethora of categories for 20 years. We’ll just leave it at 20, but I have spent a healthy portion of that time in the healthcare space in some way, shape, or form. Whether it was working for health plans like Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield/BCBS, or working for major hospital systems and little hospital systems. Everywhere from rural Missouri to cities like Chicago and Detroit. Then a considerable amount of time working on pharmaceutical products. For the most part, products — drugs that are treating very rare diseases. Folks that are suffering from things that are lifelong afflictions, debilitating, definitely the kind that you’re talking about mortality sooner versus later.
Very good. We were talking offline a little bit and I remembered as Kübler-Ross, you’ve heard of it more as the cycle of grief, but the concept is, and this was innovated by Kübler-Ross. There are various interpretations of that and controversy or whatever, but I still remember maybe it was in health class, but somewhere along the way in high school, this whole idea of people going through a cycle of grief that’s pretty predictable. Clearly, it’s a model, right? Not everybody goes through every stage. Some people go straight from the beginning to the end. It’s just a useful context as a place to start. As we’ve talked about the COVID pandemic, there certainly is a lot of grief and grief shows up in various fashion. Dana, since you’re such an expert and have used this model for your rare disease drugs so often, how about if you just give us a quick overview? Then we can drill down into each of these cycles and what you see is happening today.
Sure. I started using this model years ago. I think the other benefit I have that, I see it as a benefit, a lot of times people go, oh gosh, I’m so sorry. I also happen to be the caregiver of a child with special needs who is now 22. In that journey, I learned very clearly what the difference is between the common cycle of grief that we might go through for a broken dish or a fender bender versus a major health issue that impacts either you or a loved one or your entire family. I’ve always applied the model to these very serious circumstances and it is phased. It’s shock and denial followed by anger, depression and detachment, dialogue and bargaining, acceptance, and then returning to a meaningful life. When we talk about that in the rare disease space, the point that I’m typically making is the nuances as it applies to a very serious health condition.
Then the fact that it’s typically cyclical. When you’re dealing with something longterm, there are new developments in that disease, there are new developments that affect you physically, mentally, financially. There’s the impact on perhaps a family unit, et cetera. You’re constantly restarting the process or maybe overlapping processes on top of each other. I’ve talked in the past about for me and for lots of parents who are dealing with children that might have a serious condition, you go through it every so often. Usually attached to developmental milestones that you realize they may never make, or they might struggle quite a bit to make. What’s interesting about that as it relates to what we’re doing now, I thought about this the minute it started is that we literally thrust everyone on the planet into a massive cycle of grief, an intense one that wasn’t going to be easy for anyone to navigate. That was the first thought.
Then secondly, now we’re all navigating it differently based on who we are as people, our own internal resiliency, our ability to cope, our thoughts and beliefs, all of those things are coming into play. What we might see is behavior on the outside from people really might not reflect where they’re in that cycle. It’s just a really complex but fascinating and important issue as we move forward.
Totally makes sense. Now, in our recent webinar, I’ve talked about the research. I do that a lot in our webinars. If you’re one of our longtime blog readers you’ll know from the recent webinars we’ve talked about it, and the research is very interesting. When you see photos of people in the Ozarks shoulder to shoulder, having a great big old party, there’s a tendency to assume everybody is like that, right? It’s just the research shows that’s clearly not the case. Some people for sure believe that there’s, “What pandemic? There is no such thing. It’s all a mass media ploy.” To other people who are in very severe consequences, I’ve just read an article from a lady talking about how much it pains her when they talk about, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s just the people that have immunocompromised or old.” She said, “You know, I’m in that target audience. I’m a little offended and I’m very, very scared.”
People are all over the place in terms of how they’re responding to the various stages. I’d like you Dana to take a few minutes and maybe a couple of minutes per each to drill down on shock or denial, what that means and how you see that playing out. Anger and the various phases, just to put meat on the bones, because I think really what the key here is, is as you’re writing and creating and you can obviously expand on this more, you’re the creative director, but what do these things mean maybe? Then we’ll come back and talk about, okay, how do you adapt your creative strategy to that?
Sure. When you look at shock and denial, it’s so funny, I was right there when they were showing the spring breakers and everyone was so offended and just so upset with them. They were in shock and denial. We might see it as that’s bad behavior and that’s a lack of empathy or care or concern or maturity. But really for many of them, and I’m not saying all of them because there are always the I before E, except after C, but many of the people, even the folks out there protesting I will not wear a mask and attaching it to whatever reason that they are, many of those folks are still in shock and denial. Well, shock and denial and anger. They haven’t even truly begun to process what might be our new normal, the impact it might have on them.
They’d rather just be mad and live in that place of this isn’t happening. I think that that’s important as you start to talk to people or as a physician or any kind of provider is really looking beyond what might be that outward reaction to understand where they are because that’s going to affect the type of education and support that you provide to them. That might even affect how you’re looking at them from a treatment perspective. Thinking about what’s underneath that shock and denial and anger is going to be important. After that, we move into depression and attachment. Looking around the world, looking around my sphere of people, looking at the folks in my family, the people I spend most of my time with. I think a lot of us are still here and could be here for a considerable amount of time based on the fact that we really have no answers to where this is going.
Many of us are there and we won’t be able to move on until we figure out what normal is, whatever it might look like. You’ve probably seen it. You’ve seen people get quiet. You’ve noticed people, maybe they’re not talking about it as much or asking as many questions because they’re processing. They’re processing and they’re trying to figure out new routines. They’re trying to figure out how to adapt to this changing world. One thing you can bet is there is a level of stress there that whether you can see it or not is something I think we’ll have to consider as people start to go back to their regular healthcare routines and to their providers and start to address issues that they might be having.
You might even have noticed it in that super happy cashier at the grocery store is not the same person that they used to be. That someone who’s probably living in the depression and detachment piece of this. Then dialogue and bargaining. I mean, a lot of us are moving into this space. We’ve got one foot in depression and detachment and one foot in dialogue and bargaining because our will to live, our will to move on, our will to find a new normal will drive us there even though we’re still a little scared, a little stressed out, a little concerned. We don’t know what we don’t know yet. A lot of us are starting to move into that place where, okay, I want to talk about it. I’m going to start reaching back out to my healthcare providers, to my mentors, to my confidant, to people that maybe I’ve talked to a little bit but I have been detached from and I want to start to bounce ideas and things off of them.
I think to be ready for those folks who are going to come in. They’re going to have a lot of questions. As a healthcare provider, no one healthcare provider is going to be able to answer all of those questions. When we look at how most physicians out there, they have a set of resources that they offer to people beyond what they do in the day-to-day. Checking back into what those resources are, thinking about the places and spaces you can guide people, I think that’s going to be really important. Feeding their desire to move into that next phase, that’s going to be critical. The flip side of that, that’s going to reduce their stress and then reduce potential complications for any conditions that they have now or may develop in the future.
Then acceptance, I think maybe there’s a few, just highly evolved humans out there who are stepping into this. I think it’s fewer than we might expect. Even if you hear people who sound like they’ve accepted it, who are voicing a lot of like, this is what I’m going to do and this is how I’m going to handle it. This is where it’s going. I think there’s not a lot of those folks yet, but I am very encouraged to see them stepping into that phase because I think that’s where the leaders are going to come from. They’re going to pave the way for others. As much as this has all been this very overwhelming place that we’re living in, I think out of it is going to come so much innovation and so much progress because there’s nothing like putting a wall in front of a motivated person. They will figure out how to get around it, over it, or through it.
I think those folks are few and far between. I do think no matter who you are, if you come in contact with someone like that, we need to embrace that. They’re probably not going to be a huge problem for healthcare providers other than they will have read so many things and come to you with so many questions that are deep and have a lot of dimension to them. Being ready to have those conversations is what’s just going to keep them in that healthy place of moving forward. Then returning to a meaningful life. I mean, I couch this as stay tuned for the next available operator. I don’t know that I believe anyone is there yet, but I’d like to meet them. I think that’s what we’re all going to be trying to do for each other and all of the folks who play in any one person’s health and wellness ecosystem is going to be a very important part of that.
Very good. It’s interesting because the idea of dialogue and bargaining because I always heard the model as bargaining but dialogue and bargaining is intriguing because… I think this model is useful because we go through different phases. The same person can go through different phases, right? They may generally be in dialogue and bargaining, but once in awhile get into depression, anger, and back and forth. I think the idea of being able to talk it out with friends. We recently met a friend in Palm Springs. We have a vacation rental there. We did our first social distancing friend visit. It was amazing to have that chance to just talk things through. We haven’t done that really, and it’s not the same when you’re doing it on through Zoom.
I think that it’s really intriguing to know that these are out there. People are in general categories probably. At any given moment, they may be staying in one and probably we’ll go through this predictable sequence rather. Let me ask you. The key question here is here from a marketing standpoint because neither of us of course therapists, but how does this impact our creative strategy? That’s the meat of this. What can we do as marketing people and recognizing that we have a broad audience of people in our podcasts including super sophisticated marketers primarily at pharma or hospitals or wherever. We also have private practice doctors and everywhere all over the place. Just in general, if you were to give some advice on what your creative strategy should look like today. Well, today and then even as things start to continue to evolve, what would those kinds of things be?
The way that it’s strategy first, right? We have had for many, many years some pretty accepted patient archetypes. People behave in a particular way when it comes to their healthcare. While those may have become more robust over time, I think now is the time for everyone to stop. Whether it’s with your internal marketing team, in conjunction with your agency, just you yourself and your thoughts. It’s time to sit down and think about seriously, think about your patient population. The segments in it and how they might have changed because that’s what’s going to impact how you might change your overarching strategy or simply your messaging. Because we have people who have taken quarantine so seriously and then you have the people who I lovingly say hashtag what virus. Everything in between as far as how they’re thinking about it, but then you also have how they behave as patients.
That’s where I coined the little term COVID resolutionist because it’s like when you make a New Year’s resolution. So many of us do that, whether we’re super demonstrative about it or not is debatable. Some of us just have a list in our heads. Some of us just have one. Some of us have a dozen. There seems to be this thing every year where we see the New Year as a time to change or to attempt change. I think that COVID is going to do that for a lot of people when it comes to their healthcare. That’s where I think the idea of the cycle of grief next to how it will have actually changed people is how strategy must change. When you look at those, and I’ll keep it really simple, when you look at those patient populations, you’ve got your people who are on top of their health and wellness, your type-A personalities. Diet, exercise, staying on top of as they age, doing all the right things to make sure they know what their underlying conditions might be.
They are ahead of the cancer game. They are ahead of their eye health. They are on top of those things. They’re just going to get more on top of those things and that’s okay. That’s okay. Then there’s this giant group of people. I definitely fall into probably one end of this one, but there’s this giant group of people. We do a lot of things, right? We don’t do all the things right. We try things with our diet and our exercise. We fall off the wagon. We know we need to get that colonoscopy but we put it off until like, okay. My mother gave me a hard time about it. My spouse is staring at me like it’s time. You have a family history, whatever, go get it done. I think you’re going to see a lot of those people who are pretty good about their health, really stepping up to the plate and wanting to check the boxes and do all the things. Making that easy for them, making that comfortable for them, encouraging them to pursue those things.
I think that it’s a great time to message around that for that group. Like, let’s embrace the idea that I’m going to make a resolution to not let something like this scare me as much as it has ever again. Get ready for that flood of folks who want to, they want to figure it out. They want to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. Then you’re still going to have that giant group of folks, they are the deniers and we all suffer from it. That’s why I say I’m on the edge of the previous group because I’m the worst when it comes to… I take care of everybody else before I take care of myself, but that’s a different kind of denial. Then when you look at people who know, they know that they have diagnosed conditions, they know there are life changes they should make, they should have made a long time ago. They have been recently connected to their mortality on a whole new level.
The interesting thing about this group I think is that we’re going to have to approach them as if they fall into two categories. You’re going to have the deniers who, yes, I have severe diabetes but I have not addressed my diet and exercise and I never planned to. But this connection I now have to my mortality, the connection that my family has been literally in my face about every day before COVID and now even more since COVID happened, all right, I’m going to give it a go. I’m going to give it a shot. That’s good news, but they’re going to be terrible at it because they always have been. They’re going to need a lot of support. A, messaging that assumes that there are some people in that camp. Targeting those folks with, if you weren’t ready before, we hope you’re ready now. Let’s talk about whatever it is that we need to. Let’s do it. Getting them to go ahead and act on that notion, and then they’re going to need a ton of support.
They’re going to need a ton of atta-boys and atta-girls and all kinds of strategies and tactics to help them stay on the bus. Then you’re still going to have a group of those deniers who head in the sand. I won’t go. I’m not, I’m just going to know that it’s not going to come for me. That group is going to be really tough to reach as they always have been, but this might be the time for a proactive conversation. Healthcare providers could be a tipping point. They are feeling it, their family. You could be that exclamation point on the sentence to help them go ahead and give it a shot. Then the group, I think, well, and one more thing on those folks. If they do just put their head in the sand, that doesn’t mean that they’re not experiencing a lot of stress around it. That stress can be toxic and actually exacerbate their situation, whatever it might be. That might be something to message around as well.
Then the worriers, they’ve never been more worried than they are now, and that will continue. Again, I think very solid pragmatic information and facts that help them address their fears and concerns that make them feel comfortable and confident about seeing their healthcare provider, about pursuing whatever health issues they might have. They’re going to need confidence instilled in them. I think that’s an important messaging strategy with those folks. Again, these are also folks who are going to possibly suffer from just a great amount of stress. Recognizing that and being able to have the conversation around that to make sure that that doesn’t either aggravate an underlying condition they might not even know they have or exacerbate one that they do, that’s going to be important. I think the gist is sometimes we try to be very focused in our messaging, one size fits all. I don’t think that that’s where we’re going. I think targeted messaging that gets to these audiences where they are in this journey is going to be paramount.
Then the last question I have is pretty universal today. In fact, you and I have a conference call in what, 23 minutes, about this with a client. The point is that a lot of providers on the provider side are reopening in stages. Some are wide open for business, others are not. Then there’s a whole fear of what happens as the other shoe drops, are we in the beginning? Are we just in the continuation of the first phase, which a lot of people argue? Is there a second wave? All those kinds of things. That makes it very flux right now. The idea of reopening, in this very uncertain environment where just like I described everything is changing, looking at a different model with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety is way down there at the bottom. Basically, self-survival and safety are at the core of this. Nobody’s going anywhere if they don’t feel safe. What are some of the communication strategies that providers might be thinking about now with all this that we just discussed in mind? But really, about safety and reopening, and do you have any tips on that for our audience?
I think clearly communicating all that you are doing to provide a safe environment is important, but I think combining that message with general health messages, you’re right. We don’t know if we’re still in phase one. We don’t know when phase two might happen. We don’t know any of those things. To some degree, all of this is quite a grand experiment and a tough one. I think just the utility of communicating, this is what we’re doing to keep you safe and healthy. I’ve seen a lot of good work done out there down to the…this is the brand of disinfectant that we’re using. This is what we’re doing. Coupling that with health and wellness messages that cater to your audience, whether you’re a specialist or a GP or a big hospital system with lots of offerings, or a pharmaceutical product, whoever you are. Combining that functional message with that comment, come and see us. We’re here for you, here to help you. Don’t wait to tackle whatever might be happening in your life with regard to your health and don’t let your primary care go. I think it’s a marriage of messages with where one doesn’t necessarily take precedence.
That is a really important thought because we’ve talked about this on a number of webinars recently with research and so forth, but this is an opportunity for thought leadership in your community. Some people are doing this better than others, and obviously some health systems are well-funded than other private practice. They may not be, or some pharmas have that as part of their mission. Again, we have a very broad audience listening to our podcast, but thought leadership is such an important part of this. Everywhere I look, I read today in Fierce Healthcare an article about how for a while there or actually it was a different publication where for a while their hospitals are just thought of as these entities, faceless entities. The public was losing touch with them and they didn’t really understand any kind of, despite the hospital’s point of view, that community commitment.
Nowadays, there’s a resurgence where certainly depending on where they’re located, hospital systems and healthcare providers are seeing a resurgence. I think this is a time to continue to consider thought leadership and figure out how you can be not the educator, both sides of the brain, right? Dana, the right and left brain side.
Certainly, the educator, the thought leader, but also the compassionate people, the people that are really invested in the community. As we wrap up here, I don’t know if you have any additional thoughts on any of this stuff, Dana, because I think all these communication strategies are important. Our audience may be looking for new insights on where do we even begin.
Yeah. I think you’re exactly right. I think one of my favorite phrases is, measure twice cut once. I think circling the wagons internally no matter who you are and having a very thoughtful and thorough conversation about your patient population, your geography, the mindsets of people and how your patient archetypes might have changed. Then a balanced message that plays off of both right and left brain is spot on, not easy but spot on.
Well, I think it’s a terrific opportunity, a COVID resolution. It’s a terrific opportunity. Then you alluded to this a little bit ago, rethinking your personas but also rethinking your marketing and creative strategy and your messaging. We’ve been, from the very beginning it is something I’ve been writing about is to look at your marketing from a new. I think that okay, for a lot of people on the hospital side at least, they’re just dealing with patients and reacting to a crisis. It’s hard to think very strategically, but this is a good time now where, okay, we’re past, in most cases obviously. It varies by where you are in the country, but most of us are past the sort of crisis phase. We have Telehealth and Telemedicine in place…we have providers in place largely.
Who are we? What do we stand for? I challenge our listeners to think about that because it’s a terrific opportunity. Some people in some organizations fall to the wayside. Others can really demonstrate and take a leadership position, not just from a business standpoint, but from doing good standpoint. Thank you, Dana. It’s been great having you for this healthcare podcast discussion. As I predicted, this would be a great podcast and you did great and thank you.
A “new normal” is emerging in healthcare for both providers and patients. Healthcare industry leaders and medical marketing professionals constantly struggle to keep pace with changes. We all have the challenge of adjusting to pandemic demands and shifting consumer attitudes. Some questions are emerging:
What do healthcare patients want and expect in a post-pandemic world?
How best to address new and future consumer fears and desires?
Why “COVID-speed” has become the new normal in healthcare marketing.
How to leverage a new and more efficient role for telemedicine, outpatient clinics, urgent care, and other healthcare delivery options.
To that end, I recently led a webinar with our friend and marketing research partner Rob Klein, CEO, Klein & Partners. Rob delivered insightful data from his Wave II Omnibus Study, which captures shifting attitudes among American healthcare consumers. If you have time, you really should invest the time to watch the full webinar and download the data slides.
However, since we recognize that many of our readers require an abridged version, I am sharing the essential points here.
Time Has Become the “New Currency” in Healthcare
One of the most dramatic indicators is how people seek care now. The increase in COVID virtualhealthcare visits is more than double Rob’s previous Wave I survey.
Rob Klein advises that “time is the new currency. If you don’t have a virtual care strategy, you are behind the 8-ball as a provider.” What’s more, hospitals and health systems have recently proved they can innovate quickly.
Further, American consumers now expect providers to be proactive and to adapt quickly to market changes and consumer needs.
How do we get patients back after a cancellation due to COVID-19? Data reveals that a large percentage of patients changed to a virtual visit. “No matter how we asked the question about receiving care,” Klein notes, “virtual visits pops to the surface. It is truly our number one opportunity to get patients back for care.
“Virtual service eases the strain for those who need to be seen in person. The ability to see those patients sooner is especially helpful to people who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave home.”
Surprisingly, the two top reasons that would make patients change providers are “attitude” and “access.” Survey responses were “Another provider can get me in faster than my current provider,” and “My current provider has been difficult to work with to get me rescheduled.” Once again, time is the new currency according to Klein. Responding to these concerns is an open opportunity to retain patients and/or to capture new patients proactively.
What can be done to ease access to healthcare? According to the survey, the top opportunity is to provide virtual visits in place of in-person appointments, when medically appropriate. This is especially helpful for women and individuals working at home. Further, expand the weekday schedule with early morning and evening hours.
Now, more than ever, cost concerns and financial help in healthcare are vital. Unemployment has been astronomical, and normal income, for many, has disappeared. Consumers would welcome provider options to ease their cost concerns, as are offered in other industries. For healthcare, consumers would like to see lowering or eliminating co-pay, waiving deductible, working with insurance companies to reduce out-of-pocket costs, and other options.
Key Take-away and Action Items
Coronavirus is unlike nearly any experience that we have known in our lifetime. And for providers and patients, it is permanently changing healthcare systems to a “new normal.” The Wave II Omnibus Study, presented by Rob Klein, delivers valuable guidance for industry leaders and marketing professionals about consumer perceptions and behaviors — now and in the future.
After many weeks of living this experience, some consumers’ negative emotions — loneliness, anger, fear, and anxiety — are beginning to abate. However, these perceptions are still higher among women and people age 18 to 44.
Consequently, this is an excellent opportunity to build on the goodwill that you have instilled in consumers and patients to grow your marketplace brand.
Significantly, this experience has proven to everyone that we can innovate quickly (i.e., remove bureaucracy). Now, consumers expect us to continue innovating. In other words, our “new normal” means we can’t go back to our old ways.
One of the most significant healthcare changes in a post-pandemic world is having and using robust virtual care options, whenever appropriate.
Further, this is an opportunity to change behavior and expectations regarding where patients seek care — e.g., inpatient to outpatient procedures and the availability of a Nurse Practitioner and/or Physician Assistant, especially for patients under age 45.
For healthcare providers, organizations, and marketing executives, multi-method communications are required. In other words, one size does not fit all, and a comprehensive plan is needed to connect with consumers and patients.
As we begin to emerge from the worldwide Coronavirus experience, our perceptions and behaviors have changed, and healthcare needs to shape a “new normal” for health providers and patients.
In a world jam-packed with COVID-19 information and communications, home health centers are looking for direction. Not only are they adapting to PDGM—the most significant change to Medicare’s payment methodology for home health services in nearly 20 years—but they are also facing strong headwinds from the unprecedented crisis, COVID-19. It’s a perfect storm.
Gloves form an essential part of the personal protective equipment (PPE). However, unlike masks, gloves are not supposed to be worn all the time or when outdoors to buy groceries.
As per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gloves should be worn under two circumstances:
When caring for the sick
Gloves should be worn while touching of having contact with an infected person’s blood, stool, urine, or body fluids such as saliva, vomit, and mucus.
Gloves should be worn while cleaning or disinfecting the area around the sick person’s bed or room.
When performing routine cleaning at home
Disposable gloves should be used to clean or disinfectant the house as per the instructions mentioned on the label of the disinfectant.
People must maintain good ventilation into the room to keep fresh air coming.
Under all circumstances, the gloves should be disposed of in a lined trash can. Also, people must wash their hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol after they remove their gloves.
With that said, people are not required to wear gloves when they are outdoors, for instance, while grocery shopping or using an ATM as this may not reduce the risk of infection. This is opposite to the use of a face mask, which must be worn at all times when the person is outside in a public space. However, there is no requirement to wear a mask at home while performing routine cleaning.
Overall, the most effective ways to prevent COVID-19 include the following:
Maintaining a six-feet distance with others
Washings hands with soap regularly using a 20-second technique
Using a hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol when soap is not available
Wearing a face covering or a mask when out in public
A conversation between Navin Gupta, Vice President, Home Care Solutions for MatrixCare and his special guest Jeremy Crow, Senior Software Executive, Information Technology Consultant, and Certified Project Manager for HEALTHCAREfirst about RCM support through COVID-19, PDGM, and beyond.
COVID-19 has caused massive economic disruption to virtually every kind of business, including vein practices.
Which marketing strategies should you begin now, and which should you implement in the coming months as the crisis slowly subsides? To find out, join Stewart Gandolf for this practical, information-packed webinar. When you attend, you’ll discover:
Which marketing strategies should you invest in now, even if your practice is currently closed?
How to communicate with your current patients as things change.
How to capitalize on the marketing opportunities that telemedicine brings to your practice.
How to balance social media, digital marketing, and traditional advertising?
How to communicate with referring doctors?
What are some “silver lining” opportunities?
Where should you invest for the best possible ROI?
These challenging times require courage, optimism, and foresight.
About Your Webinar Leader
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, LLC, one of the nation’s leading healthcare marketing agencies. Stewart and his team of 30 marketing specialists have marketed over a thousand practices and hospitals over the past twenty years, including dozens of vein practices. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. Over 21,000 doctors and executives read Stewart’s healthcare marketing blog. Finally, Stewart and co-author Dr. Mark Tager recently wrote, “Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow and Perfect Your Cash-Pay Business.”
March 17, 2020, may well be remembered as the day the telemedicine revolution finally took off. Telemedicine and Telehealth‘s adoption, fast-tracked by Coronavirus/COVID, will create profound changes in how healthcare services are provided — while also spawning new healthcare marketing opportunities.
Earlier last month, in the interest of public safety, the federal government largely removed two huge and long-standing barriers to telemedicine adoption by easing reimbursement and HIPAA restrictions. Many private pay health plans followed suit. These changes open the door to exciting new ways to better serve patients today and to bolster, grow and sustain medical practices, medical offices, hospitals, and healthcare networks in the future.
Changes in healthcare and medical services delivery commenced almost instantly. For example, right around this time, we spoke with one of our multi-location oncology clients about our marketing teams‘ recommended changes to their marketing plans due to COVID-19. These discussions evolved to focus on their need to help cancer patients both safely and remotely, and their uncertainties regarding HIPAA. The new rules now allow the use of simple, practical, patient-friendly solutions like Apple FaceTime and Zoom, to communicate with homebound patients. True to their purpose, these new government proclamations have opened the door to safer, better, and more convenient care for cancer patients.
Our healthcare clients are not alone:
“With the coronavirus pandemic turning doctors’ offices into no-go zones, family physicians are now doing many of their consultations online or by telephone,” The New York Times reports. “In a matter of days, a revolution in telemedicine has arrived at the doorsteps of primary care doctors in the U.S. and in Europe. The virtual doctor visits, at first a matter of safety, are now a centerpiece of family doctors’ plans to treat everyday illnesses. We’re basically witnessing ten years of change in one week.”
Until now, operational challenges, internal politics, resistance from doctors, state law limitations, and HIPAA and reimbursement-related fears had stymied larger healthcare systems from embracing telemedicine. Due to COVID-19, these same players suddenly found ways to do the previously unimaginable – adopt telemedicine at scale in a matter of weeks.
According to Harvard Business Review, “Prior to this crisis, many major health care systems had begun to develop telemedicine services, and some, including Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, have been quite active in this regard. That said, nationwide use of telemedicine had been limited. John Brownstein, chief healthcare innovation officer of Boston Children’s Hospital, noted that his medical institution was doing more telemedicine visits during any given day in late March that it had during the entire previous year.”
During a recent webinar (COVID-19: Up to the Minute Learnings from Industry Experts on the Front Lines of the Coronavirus Pandemic), Ed Rafalski, Ph.D., Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of BayCare Health said, “Necessity is the mother of innovation and invention here at Baycare. I have been trying to get the organization to get more providers stood up on our telehealth platform, and a crisis made it happen. So the good news is we’re adding capacity and getting providers trained that up until this point were either unwilling, or afraid, or too busy seeing patients. And so what’s happened is because people are canceling elective business, doctors have free time. So they’re saying, ‘Well heck, I’ll go ahead and get trained on telehealth.’ So we’re building our capacity exponentially, which is good news.”
Consumer and Doctor Acceptance of Telehealth: What Does the Data Shows?
With social and physical distancing, telemedicine has gained a greater consumer and provider appeal virtually overnight. Telemedicine is a new marketing opportunity, and now is the time to take full advantage of this shift. It’s likely to be a permanent change.
For their part, many consumers have been ripe for change for some time.
By 2019, American Well’s Telehealth Index: 2019 Consumer Survey, found 66% of consumers were willing to use telehealth, and 8% had tried it. As you might expect, attitudes toward telehealth varied by age. 74% of 18-34-year-olds and 72% of 35-44-year-olds said they were willing to use it, while 52% of seniors (65+) said they were open to telehealth. Of those who had used telemedicine, 54% were Millennials.
Speaking of Millennials, remember they were born into a tech-rich world. Millennials number over 75 million and 40 percent say telemedicine is an extremely or very important option. It’s in their digital DNA to expect and demand immediacy and convenience. What’s more, computers, laptops, mobile devices, and smartphones are ubiquitous, and virtually everyone is equipped for instant audio/video conferencing.
In response to COVID, Sykes TeleHealth Services just completed a survey to understand changing consumer perceptions and behaviors regarding telehealth in our new era. Interestingly, almost 42% of people initially screened were still not even aware of telemedicine, which disqualified them from taking the survey. Of the 2000 respondents (58% of the total) of people who ARE aware of telehealth:
When asked if their health insurance provider covers telemedicine, 52% said yes, 10% said no, and 35% weren’t sure.
When asked, “Have you ever considered trying a telehealth appointment?” 20% said they had already completed a telehealth appointment, 40% had considered it, but not yet made an appointment, 37% said they would consider it, and 3% said they wouldn’t consider it.
Importantly, people who try telehealth become satisfied enough to do it again. Of those who had tried a telehealth appointment, 59% said they’d already had more than one appointment, 37% said they’d consider scheduling another appointment, while 4% said they would not consider another appointment.
Most importantly, COVID-19 promises to be a game-changer. 73% of respondents said they’d be willing to use telehealth if they showed symptoms of COVID-19, while 60% said COVID-19 had increased their willingness to try telehealth in the future.
Meanwhile, even before COVID-19, physicians predicted a growing acceptance of telehealth. American Well’s 2019 Physician Survey reported that 69% of physicians were willing to have a video visit. The top reasons cited were increased access for patients, flexible work-life balance, to attract and retain patients, to improve outcomes, and to be on the leading edge of medicine.
What’s more, 22% of surveyed physicians said they had already used telehealth to see patients, a 340% increase from 2015 when only 5% had tried it. These doctors reported benefits, including increased access to care, more efficient use of time, reduced costs, high-quality communications with patients, and enhanced relationships with patients.
To make the data come alive for you, let me share two personal stories.
Last year, our family was enjoying Spring Break at our (currently closed) Airbnb vacation rental in Palm Springs. My daughter woke us up, worried about a bug bite with a growing ring around the site of the bite. Rather than taking a chance and spending time at unknown urgent care, we opened my laptop and requested a quick telemedicine conference. Presto, within mere minutes – and for less than I would have paid at the urgent care – our daughter’s minor-but-annoying irritation was solved. She was relieved, and we all sat down to enjoy a family morning with pancakes. Anecdote #2: Days after I alerted him to the new HIPAA and reimbursement changes, my primary care physician sent me an email proudly announcing, “Hey… I’ve now got telemedicine available.” Evidently, he now appreciates the opportunity that is knocking.
Google Trends shows the record rise in searches for “telehealth,” peaking March 20 due to COVID
The Telemedicine Marketing Opportunity
The coronavirus outbreak has been a tumultuous experience and a worldwide tragedy. At least we can take some solace that our nation’s healthcare system will almost inevitably improve as a result. Telemedicine specifically offers the promise of better care and, at the same time, provides a unique marketing opportunity.
As we’ve seen, the barriers to telemedicine adoption are disappearing rapidly. Regulations and reimbursement are improving. Meanwhile, most doctors and patients who have tried telemedicine continue to use it.
Virtual services provide a fresh (and often new) service line for hospital CEOs, medical practice administrators, doctors, nurse practitioners, behavioral health professionals, and other healthcare providers.
Potential benefits to your organization include:
Greater patient satisfaction
Operational efficiency, and
Many consumers have long been enthusiastic about the convenience of telemedicine. Changes on the provider side—partly due to the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency—include:
Telemedicine reimbursement is more universally available, including many, if not most, private insurance plans
Some virtual doctor visits pay at the same rate as regular in-person visits
Our government has relaxed HIPAA have restrictions in favor of the greater good because of the COVID emergency
Medicare Part B provides for billing for non-face-to-face communications
The learning curve has become flat; providers and patients are familiar with communications technology (Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, etc.)
Patients and healthcare providers have computer equipment and use two-way communications nearly universally
Professional organizations, such as the American College of Physicians, encourage virtual visits, whenever appropriate, to limit potential coronavirus exposure
Here are some of the telemedicine marketing strategies to consider:
Email your patients to inform them that you now offer telemedicine. Reinforce the message with in-office signage and staff/provider conversations with patients
Feature your telemedicine option on your website
Promote a new level of convenience with universal consumer appeal
Start a paid search campaign that targets patients in your area who are already looking for a telemedicine provider
Present telemedicine as an offer, such as a telemedicine screening
It can also act as a gateway channel for an online second opinion
A low-cost, low-risk introductory channel for elective care
Telemedicine is an easy and natural initial gateway for urgent care
Offer telemedicine services through doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and many others
Remote patient monitoring, compliance, and follow-up
A telemedicine connection can be available at partner locations. (For example, generalists could provide telemedicine access to allied specialists when appropriate.)
In some medical marketplaces, your new telehealth marketing program coulds be a competitive advantage. In other areas, telemedicine is rapidly becoming “table stakes.”
Remember, whether you choose to embrace telemedicine or not, you are already competing with local providers AND well-funded telehealth service providers like Teladoc.
What are Some Telemedicine Options?
People still need healthcare, and healthcare still needs patients. Right now, the various telemedicine formats are an attractive and safe way to connect with new and existing patients. Some platforms also easily facilitate group meetings or collaboration among multiple participants, partners, or internal staff.
And, it’s now relatively easy to open a telemedicine window across the service spectrum. Health systems, medical practices, hospitals, urgent care centers, and other healthcare providers all can adopt telemedicine to benefit their community. For the most part, telemedicine platforms are scalable and can serve large multi-location providers, hospitals, and service line departments, as well as individual doctors and practices.
Right now, during the COVID-19 epidemic, smaller providers are necessarily relying on simple, ad hoc technologies like FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype.
Still, there are dozens of mature and stable software options available for both the enterprise level (e.g., EHR/HL7v2/FHIR integrations at Microsoft) and for the individual practice.
Just in case creating a telemedicine program is entirely new for you, or if you’re rolling it out as a more substantial part of your services, here is an unordered sampling of some of the telemedical services you might consider:
DOXY.ME – A simple, free, and secure telemedicine solution with unlimited message, voice, and video connections. It also has paid tiers with additional features. Doxy.me integrates with Electronic Health Records (EHR) or Practice Management software.
ALLSCRIPTS – Now offers telemedicine integration for health systems and practices to its EHR and practice management software offerings.
EVISIT – Claims an industry leadership position a virtual care provider favored by health systems, hospitals, clinics, and physician groups in the US.
AMC HEALTH – Provides various comprehensive services, including patient personalization and remote monitoring and tracking of patient devices. AMC Health includes clinical trial and research options.
SIMPLEVISIT – Manages telemedicine programs with HIPAA-compliant video visits compatible over Skype, FaceTime, or other communications platforms.
MEND – Described as full-featured and easy to use telemedicine suite. Mend includes voice and video calling, plus appointment reminders, online forms, and appointment self-scheduling.
MEDICI – A secure platform to connect doctors with patients using text, audio, and video. HIPAA compliant provides for billing, chat translate, and other features.
UPDOX – A secure, simple, HIPAA-compliant telemedicine tool. “During the COVID-19 crisis, telehealth is a critical channel for physicians to care for patients while minimizing risk to themselves and others and protecting the community.”
SPRUCE HEALTH – Describes itself as a powerful tool for patients, healthcare providers, and other partners in health to connect and communicate.
Remember, telemedicine and telehealth capabilities represent a significant marketing opportunity. The social distancing demands, plus the broad audience appeal and accessibility, will fundamentally change how patients are seen now and for the foreseeable future.
Note, while the terms are often used interchangeably by the public and even some of the sources cited in this post, technically speaking, TELEMEDICINE refers to remotely providing healthcare services, typically using a secure audio/video platform between provider and patient. Telemedicine is a subset of the larger TELEHEALTH, which also includes online medical education, training, administrative meetings, group sessions, and the like.
COVID-19 has changed the healthcare industry quicker in the last two weeks than in the last 50 years. With medical practices temporarily shutting down and elective procedures put on hold, what should healthcare networks and healthcare specialists do with their marketing campaigns‘ strategies?
Stewart Gandolf, CEO, Healthcare Success
Aaron Clifford, SVP Marketing, Binary Fountain
To answer this important question for healthcare marketers, I partnered with Aaron Clifford, Senior Vice President of Marketing, at Binary Fountain for a marketing webinar, COVID-19 and Healthcare Marketing: Should You Freeze, Pivot, or Push Forward? This event drew tremendous audience response and I want to share it with you on our HealthcareSuccess blog.
In this timely COVID healthcare marketing webinar for marketing practitioners & healthcare CMOs, you will learn:
If and how you should reallocate your marketing budget
Which marketing strategies and tactics make sense…and which don’t
How to tweak brand communications because of COVID-19
If you should change your digital marketing and directory listings as Coronavirus spreads
What key updates need to be made to social media profiles and healthcare organizations‘ local listings
I’ve included this presentation’s video above (and below), and a pdf of the deck, audio options, and the entire transcript further below, for your convenience. And, I trust this webinar helps your medical practice, health network or hospital survive and thrive through the Coronavirus pandemic.
If you would like to speak to us about your marketing budgets through the COVID crisis, please give us a call at 800-656-0907.
PDF: COVID-19 and HealthcareMarketing webinar slides
Podcast: COVID-19 and Healthcare Marketing webinar audio
COVID-19 and Healthcare Marketing Webinar Transcript
Welcome everyone to today’s webinar, “COVID-19 and Healthcare Marketing: Should You Freeze, Pivot or Push Forward?”
Welcome everyone and thank you for taking time out of your busy day to join us. My name is Aaron Clifford. I’m the Senior Vice President of Marketing here at Binary Fountain. We know that it’s been a challenging time in everyone’s business and your personal lives, so we are extremely grateful that you’re here and we’re going to try to squeeze as much help, ample information and advice as we can. I will warn you, Stewart and I both are remote, so you may hear the a random dog bark or other noises that you typically wouldn’t in a normal webinar. And so I’m sure many of you are remote as well and probably could understand that. So for the next hour, we’re going to discuss specific ways healthcare marketers can shift their digital marketing efforts and engage customers online throughout the COVID crisis.
To help lead this discussion, I’m joined by Stewart Gandolf, CEO of integrated marketing firm Healthcare Success. Stewart, you care to introduce yourself?
Sure. I’m excited to be here. Everybody I know, again, as Aaron just said, we’re all busy trying to adapt to a new reality. I’m CEO of Healthcare Success and as Aaron mentioned, we are an integrated marketing firm. We work with really kind of all kinds of healthcare entities, hospitals, medical practices, pharmaceuticals, device, heath plans across the board. I think there’ll be fun to share some insights today.
For sure. Thanks, Stewart. So glad to have you here. Really appreciate it that you joined us. Before we begin, let’s take a quick look about what we’re going to be talking about today. So first we’re going to discuss strategizing your digital marketing in a way that matches the current shift in consumer behavior. What we’re seeing. Then we’ll cover recommended adjustments to marketing budgets and brand communications in light of the health crisis. And then we’ll dive into some key updates to the local listings and also social media platforms. We’ll cover things that you should be looking out for and some strategies from a social media standpoint. And finally we’ll have a Q&A session. So we’ll be collecting the Q&A and we’ll make sure that we get to your questions. So please feel free to ask questions as we go along and then we’ll address those towards the end. But for now I’m going to pass it over to Stewart to get started. Stewart.
All right. Hey everybody, as I said I’m really excited to be here. As some of you may have seen me speak at different venues, I tend to go really fast. I like to give as much information as I possibly can, so it’s kind of like drinking from a fire hose. Aaron, I both have a lot of subject matters today. So I think you’ll find this interesting. First step is to keep in mind that, we are living through historic pandemic. And so the I want to give a thank you and shout out to the caregivers on the front lines today. You know, one of the things we’re going to talk about today is to acknowledge the reality in your communications, where we are today.
And you know, we have caregivers in the front lines out there. We have people who are working hard, to protect ourselves and our loved ones. One of the common themes I’ll talk about today is to stay at home, right? Because that’s a more than a hashtag. We are literally trying to save some lives. One of the things that I’d like to talk about too is that how we act today will be remembered tomorrow. And so meaning that we’re working together to create marketing plans. We’re trying to communicate to the community out there. And one of the things that we’ll talk about a bit more later, is that even if you’re staying at home, you can help.
But the reality is that we’re trying to get the word out, and help for the common good marketing today in a real sense. There are still people who don’t know what’s going on. I just saw something in the news today about a governor who didn’t really realize that the Coronavirus is transmittable before symptoms happen.
So I would argue that this is our chance to not only do a good job for our various institutions, but to really help the public. Keep that in mind as we go forward from here.
So we know today that it’s amazing what’s going on here. We see that the headlines just seem to be more and more depressing. Some of the recent ones include
“Model’s predicting spread a virus is a grim picture,” according to New York times.
“More than 75% of all Americans have been ordered to stay home.”
“Social distancing appears to be slowing the spread,” which is good news. That’s great given that the crisis won’t be over soon.
“The Dow dropped 410 points down, 23%. The worst quarter ever.”
“Coronavirus job losses could total 47 million.”
It’s just amazing.
“Unemployment could be 32%.”
This is coming from a super-heated economy where a couple of months ago it was, what two or three percent unemployment.
One bit of note of good news for the small business owners out there. The feds are putting together the new CARES package. The $2 trillion stimulus has hundreds of millions of dollars set aside to help small business owners. They can request forgivable SBA loans to help cover salaries over a couple months. And you can certainly look that up. And I should mention after the webinar, we will be sending out the the video and there will be links.
There’s lots of information we can point you to. So anyway, I think it’s really important to recognize that this is our new environment. I mentioned a minute ago how things are changing so quickly. This is an amazing trying to prepare for each day. Think how much the news has changed. If you look back just a couple of weeks ago, people were still largely in denial. Then by latest data on our chart, March 20th to 22nd, large percentages of people began avoiding events, avoiding traveling, avoiding small groups and stocking up on food.
So it’s amazing how quickly and really historic how things are changing so quickly here.
I’m big on data. Hopefully you are as well. Up to 70% are now avoiding major purchases, up from a couple of days ago when just 40% said they were delaying major purchases.
However, great challenges can create great opportunities sometimes from a marketing point of view. So we’re seeing today, and this is something that we’re confirming a lot from our side, that 95% of global consumers say they’re spending more time in media consumption.
That’s of course not surprising. The fact that they’re watching more news coverage isn’t surprising. One of the benefits, again, as terrible as this crisis is there are some silver linings. Like I have proved myself, I’m spending more time with my family. I have two daughters, one of them is a teenager, and we’re just having some excellent family time because normally we’re always so busy. And I think it’s important to recognize present moment, not just with yourselves but in your communications.
And it is a different time. What’s amazing is the growth of streaming – not just Netflix which doesn’t have a lot of commercial opportunity there – but just streaming TV and streaming radio. I’ll talk about this more later.
From a marketing point of view, this creates some unprecedented opportunities. People are spending more time on social media. Again, not surprisingly, but these are all opportunities.
And we were talking before we got started here about how things are changing forever. So, with so many people using Zoom for video conferences, it is unlikely we’re ever going to go back to the way we were before.
Regarding telemedicine, it took some hospital systems years to begin to experiment but over the last couple of weeks they’ve embraced it and fully figured out how to do it. So the world has changed.
So it’s a lot of what I am sharing are things that I’ve observed, but I wanted to make sure I got my team’s input on this as well. People that are dealing with clients every day.
And so the first thing I mentioned to kind of at the opening is I think it’s really important to acknowledge the current situation. It’s almost hard to have almost any conversation without discussing this virus. And that’s okay. It’s really important to be transparent. You’re seeing this beginning to happen with broadcast TV. Any ad that has pictures of large crowds, handshakes, big parties, look just out of touch.
And I think the public understands that, commercials like that were creative before COVID, but the more you can be transparent, the more you can feel up to date, the better.
Also, I think while most marketers are aware of this, it’s really important to not look exploitative. Just be careful of that because the it is easy to do that.
Make sure that you don’t present any unintended messages. This is particularly true if you have lots of things going on. Be careful of words like, “I’m dying to see you,” or referencing viruses when you mean computer viruses. Obviously we’ll have a whole new meaning today if we are not careful.
And then remember how empathy is really, really important. I talked to our Creative Director, Dana, about this yesterday. Dana’s has worked on a lot of pharma campaigns, and she was actually in the process of writing a campaign that describes how people with rare diseases go through various stages of grief. And we were both remarking how many people we know are grieving. Employees of ours are grieving, clients are grieving.
And I really don’t see people talking about that very much. But we have to recognize that if there was ever a time for grief or empathy it is now. Our messaging and the way we communicate with people needs to recognize that everybody’s stressed out. As human beings, we want to have empathy.
By the way my Twitter handle is at @Stewart Gandolf. And right now is you’re live tweeting through this healthcare marketing webinar, we just chose the hashtag #healthcaremarketing. So if you have things to tweet hopefully Kaylie you can watch that while I’m presenting to see if there’s anything to respond to on Twitter.
But going back to what I was saying, there are already some examples of commercials that are out there. I’ll try to tweet and share things that I like and are certainly a lot of updates that we are all seeing today. So one of the big questions and by the title of our webinar is, should we pause, should we run straight forward? Should we stop?
We are having these conversations with every single one of our agency’s 80 or so clients.
And the first question that comes up from a lot of them is, “In light of what’s going on, should we just stop marketing?”
Should YOU stop marketing? And our answer to that is no, but it might sense to stop advertising. And let me explain what I mean. I definitely don’t think that stopping marketing is a good idea for virtually anybody, but for advertising, maybe. We’ll talk about what that looks like in a few minutes.
We have a reminder just for those of you who are marketing people here. We also have some executives that are not marketers, like CEOs and operating people, and we certainly have some doctors too. Just as a reminder to the marketers, and you may remember the four Ps of marketing, or maybe you are familiar with the seven P’s of marketing.
When we lead our seminars, we teach seven. And just as a reminder, marketing is not the same thing as advertising. Advertising is a small subset of one of the P’s of marketing, promotion.
So while advertising is certainly important – it’s the sexy stuff that everybody focuses in on – marketing is much broader than just advertising. So as I mentioned a moment ago, with every crisis sometimes there’s opportunities, right?
And I think it was Rahm Emanuel who said, “Never waste a crisis.”
And so certainly again, I don’t want to in any way underestimate the human toll of Coronavirus, and people are dying. It can’t be any more serious.
So with that in mind though, a lot of us still have to do our jobs to inform the community and help people in any way we can. So this is really, really important.
So what can we do? Well, one of the first things is keep in mind is many competitors are freezing or doing nothing.
So if you’re in a competitive specialty or competitive hospital or a competitive drug, a lot of people are just running for the hills and pausing or doing nothing. And I would argue strongly that that’s probably not the best strategy.
I would say that almost in any event, assuming you’re going to stay in business, which hopefully most of us are, your job is to prepare for the future because eventually COVID-19 will recede. There are drugs they’re testing now, and hopefully they find a breakthrough that can help us until a vaccine is available in a year, a year and half. Hopefully it won’t drag on for months and months. We’ll see. But in any event we want to prepare because once the smoke does clear there’ll be tremendous opportunity for new leaders to emerge, and also become visible.
So even if you’re not looking to attract patients in this environment, there are things you could do. Certainly you could continue your branding, right? So if you’re a hospital, for example, you don’t want to disappear in the community. You could do ongoing branding kinds of messaging.
If you aren’t going to advertise, you could be doing marketing planning. You could be doing brand strategy and development. You’ve always thought about your brand, and maybe you’ve always wondered where it’s off.
I would again argue strongly this is a time to look at your creative work. For example, a lot of people that I meet are really dissatisfied with where their website. Or maybe there’s other changes they’ve been trying to make, like video content or a new content strategy.
And just a little transparency here on our side. Our company has grown tremendously over the last three or four years. Regarding our own website, we’re usually focused on client stuff first. This is a pretty common issue with agencies. While we’ve been working on it, it hasn’t had that kind of energy that we would like. So it no longer represents who we are today as well as we’d like.
But today is a fantastic time, so over the next three months we’re aggressively working on our own website, as well as our clients’, to represent better who we are today.
So these are the kinds of things to start thinking about. Where can you make an effort?
Even simple administrative things. I was talking to our managing director of the day, and now is a great time to complete all that HR training that we’ve been trying to get around to. This is a good time continuing ed, and also for strengthening your employee communications.
A lot of you are in larger institutions and they have thousands of employees. These people are begging for leadership and guidance today.
My head of SEO urged me to tell you a 15 second tip here. Right now there is massive things you can do to build enterprise SEO, particularly with schema. If you don’t know what that means, it is a kind of the infrastructure that helps the machines learn the meaning and the context behind what’s on the page.
These are tremendous times. We’re working a lot with clients on that.
One of the things I’ve mentioned earlier is we can use social media and again. Aaron will talk about the organic social media in a few minutes, and how to really work on growing your own reputation.
So of our blog subscribers may recognize that our last post mentioned how the US Surgeon General appealed to Good Morning America viewers about social distancing.
And because of the way the CDC had communicated in the early days, a lot of Millennials and Gen Z famously thought they were immune, and it’s no big deal to go partying on spring break.
So the Surgeon General called upon influencers like Kylie Jenner to go out there and say, to Millennials and younger Americans that this is for real. And she did. And a couple hours later, Kylie posted a video to her 4 million followers on Instagram. So my argument here is that while I think it’s fantastic Kylie Jenner used her clout with Millennials and younger Americans to get the word out about social distancing, I would argue anybody in healthcare has a responsibility too. Not from a marketing and making more money point of view, but for the good.
But you know, on my own social media, I tweet educational info about this epidemic.Independent private practice doctors can simply put up a notice about COVID on their Facebook page, and email their patients. So I think it’s fantastic opportunity to, just for the common good, promote social distancing help people who think they may have the virus.
Again, the CDC is one voice in the wind. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Certainly we want you as providers to put out accurate information and to help people understand that, for example, people could be contagious before they show up with symptoms.
Wellness tips. A lot of doctors, a lot of hospitals are providing wellness tips. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
You can also make sure the public knows you’re taking proper safety precautions You can answer frequently asked questions. You can update notices on your websites.
All these things are things for the common good. Again, not just from a marketing point of view, or business development. So I would argue, we need to get the word out to everybody in our communities. You have people that you’re influencing personally. You know, we went virtual in our office way before the government told us to. A friend of mine is a neuroscientist who sent me out information on the importance of social distancing early. His email was so compelling that we took action immediately. And I just think that’s the spirit of what we all have to do today.
So let’s say that advertising doesn’t make sense for you now to attract patients. Yet, I would argue that if you are in the position to position yourself as a community thought leader to educate the public during the Coronavirus crisis.
So certainly pharmaceuticals, health plans and hospitals, may find themselves in that category. Maybe even forward-thinking private practices depending on the size, philosophy and specialty.
So beyond the organic social media, advertising can make sense there if you’re looking to build your brand for the long term and capitalize the competitor’s absence.
If you’re a small independent practice, just trying to keep the lights on and you’re shut down, then maybe it’s not possible to advertise, but that’s not everybody.
When should you not advertise? Well if you’re in the situation where all your budget has to be direct response advertising, and every dollar must bring an immediate trackable ROI. Or maybe you’re an elective business that’s closed, right? The Surgeon General asked you to close and if you can’t accept patients that would be a factor. And obviously if you’re struggling advertising may have to wait.
So I want to share some insights for the rest of my time with you today. Many of my ideas come from my team, because they’re on the front line every day. While I’m looking at the big picture, they’re watching new developments daily for our clients.
And here are some of the insights we’ve noticed.
Number one. Some specialties are actually seeing increased traction, including increased click through rates and increased inquiries or lead conversions. These include urgent care, not surprisingly, and primary care. Maybe not surprisingly, people are looking for alternatives. We have a integrative medicine, primary care doctor who’s seeing tremendous opportunity because people are looking for things like wellness and boosting your immune system.
Addiction treatment searches are up right now. I just tweeted something I saw yesterday, that alcohol sales are booming. They’re up 50%. Again, it’s not surprising.
Just watching people’s behavior, we need to have empathy. I’ve participated in a couple of these virtual cocktail hours. Some people are drinking too much, and you can just see it. So sad.
We have a number of addiction clients who recognize that there are people out there who are addicts and are at home. They are hurting. And so some of these specialties are seeing great big increases in interest.
Other essential categories are holding strong like cancer related searches.
Not surprisingly, inquiries for elective based surgeries like vein surgeries are falling. While inquiries are down, clicks are not dropping as much. A lot of people we are finding at home, and they’re clicking on those paid ads, but they may not be actually inquiring.
So whether you are with a practice or a hospital, you need to really actively manage your campaign.
I mentioned earlier preventative care kinds of terms are hot, like “boosting immune system.”
We are predicting we’ll see a little bit of cost decreases for the cost per click if you’re doing pay-per-click. And we expect to see that to continue as competitors flee the market.
So our recommendation going forward for your paid search campaigns, Google or Bing, is to make sure your ads read appropriate for a new reality. Also actively manage your campaigns. Just like we’ve talked about earlier, refine your general creative direction, and monitor keyword searches and campaign results as consumer behaviors continue to change.
Be ready to pivot and make adjustments to keywords and landing pages and websites as appropriate. Recognize we want to avoid trying to exploit COVID, yet capitalize on new opportunities like telemedicine. We’re doing a new blog post next week about the marketing opportunities with telemedicine.
Other ideas include Televisitation for addiction centers or SNFs, or free transportation. Think a little bigger. What can you do that you never did before?
Another thing to do is think through beyond paid search to display advertising, native advertising on Yahoo! And Youtube. Remember people are spending more time online, but not always actively searching.
By the way, Google is also going to be throwing out some credits to people that have been advertising since last year. They’ll be rolling those out in coming months. They’re not very specific on that, but that’s a little bit of relief to people that have been advertising with them for a while.
If you’re interested in current search terms, there’s a plethora of information out there. You can just search for “Google trends, Corona virus search terms,” and see what people are searching for on a minute by minute basis. This changes constantly. Just some sort of free value added. I think you’ll find that interesting.
Regarding Facebook, we work with lots of different clients with different specialties. We’re not seeing a big dropoff and click through rates or conversions at the stage across most of our campaigns.
Again, it varies a little bit with addiction. It’s just such a great example because it is so relevant right now. Keep in mind we want to be emotional appropriately for the particular world that we’re in. You can consider Facebook live or promote various events. We’re going to share some examples of that in just a moment.
One of our pharma specialists came up with such a great idea of promoting our community actions, or our everyday heroes, especially the providers.
Again, Facebook is also considering a grant, though there’s no details of yet. But, they’ll probably be providing some rebates to small businesses as well.
Since everything is shutting down, if you can hang in there, there will be some opportunities.
Something else I want to share, that our paid social media manager is so excited about. Facebook Messenger now has a program similar to chatbots. This happens to be from one of our recovery clients.
I blocked out the names and phone numbers. It asks prospects to start a confidential message and then the bot will come back and give a couple of different options. You can dictate the questions, and people feel like they’re talking to a real human. You can control the conversation.
And we’re finding that we’re getting tons of inquiries this way. Facebook always comes up with new formats. This just happens to be one of our favorites. I’m just sharing a little secret that we’re seeing tremendous success with this early on. This is brand new. Another thing that’s cool about this is we’re able to share a social endorsements. This is an example of a real life patient. Again, we blocked out the name of this real patient, interacting with the addiction treatment center.
So these things are very, very powerful. Another thing we’re doing with another client right now is we’re promoting webinars. They’re not seeing patients live. So, if you’re able to stay in the marketplace, instead of doing dinner seminars this is a fantastic time to try something new. If you have some marketing budget to test and track, now you can finally get around to it. And I would argue there are some terrific opportunities here today.
I recognize that some of our audience listeners are very sophisticated marketers, who understand things like OTT, CTV and programmatic buying. Others may be much further down the marketing continuum in terms of experience with it. Either way, this slide here from Comscore underscores the amount of time people are spending online that I described earlier. And if you’re interested, you can go to that URL yourself.
This was a screenshot from yesterday. So for example, Hulu streaming through Apple TV or Amazon fire or through smart TVs is just exploding. Viewership is up in record numbers. Both broadcast and streaming TV are showing record numbers, and behavior is changing daily.
You have to be paying attention here if you want to capitalize on this. And I know if you’re a provider and you’re just trying to take care of patients, you have challenges. And, we’re all scared. But, from marketing standpoint, this time has some tremendous opportunity. My team is working harder than ever currently on these types of opportunities. This graphic was shared with us, with our reps at iHeartRadio.
This Nielsen study from a couple of days ago shows that because people are no longer commuting, and they’re not listening to the radio in a car, streaming radio is taking off. Interestingly a couple of days later, this is an email I got that work for a work at home playlist from iHeart radio. It’s funny, I love their programmatic buying and use of artificial intelligence. They obviously know I like chill. And so they not only came up with a word from home playlist, they targeted me with the kind of stuff that I might be interested in, although that was a big mess with me on country. But it feels so personalized.
Our iHeart rep tells us that new subscribers are up by 20% plus us over recent days.
So I asked my media guru Charlie for some tips, and I thought this would be really intriguing to you.He and I always agree on this kind of stuff.
Streaming radio and television are our favorite opportunities, but for for billboards and print, “not so much.” Print is slowly dying and nobody’s driving to see billboards. So are if you’re going to do traditional advertising, these are some of our favorite things.
Interestingly, while viewership is up and listenership is up, advertisers are fleeing the marketplace. Due to COVID, the cancelled Olympics, reduced political ads, prices are dropping. So it’s a very strange time that you have more viewership and listenership than ever, coupled with declining rates. Now remember with broadcast in particular, that’s is dead space. It’s gone forever. It’s like a little revenue is better than no revenue because it’s dead space.
That’s why broadcast is often negotiable. Those of you that are more experienced marketers know, broadcast is very, very powerful. A less sophisticated advertisers often go with the newspaper, but broadcast tends to be super powerful. And it can be negotiable.
Regarding creative, we talked about creating positive messaging that informs the community I think it is a good thing just to acknowledge where we are. If you have an agency (hopefully), or media buyer, whoever it is this is a time to cash in those relationships with your media reps.
Our Charlie has worked in 200 of 210 DMAs [Designated Market Areas] in America. His knowledge level is insane – he can tell you which train stations in New Jersey have the best outdoor signage, for example. More importantly he has thirty years worth of relationships with hundreds of reps nationwide.
Charlie’s been going back to our clients’ media reps saying, “Hey, my client is thinking of pulling out of the market. Help me convince them to stay in.” And I would recommend you do the same. If you have relationships with your media reps, ask them for help. They’re a lot more willing to negotiate right now.
I’m not saying grind your media reps, but look for win-win. So just two anecdotes are inspiring.
First, for one our big clients in Chicago, Charlie was able to negotiate 80 free community oriented radios spots, while also changing our mix to streaming.
Second, for one of our multi-location practices in Texas, Charlie advised the client to move most of the April media budget to TV. Rather than complaining, our radio rep offered 180 radio spots free across three stations. He said he looks at it as an investment in the longterm, and a measure of goodwill.
The broadcast stations are hurting, everybody’s hurting right now. They used to say back in the depression, “Things are tough all over.”
If you have no relationships, it’s hard to do this. But if you’ve been in the market, I encourage you to negotiate with your reps.
I’m going to turn the ball over to Aaron here as this is my last slide again. If you’re interested, because I know some of you may have to run, you we’ll be sending the deck to you afterwards. If you want to follow me on Twitter, it’s just @Stewart Gandolf: is simple and we’ll provide you contact data later. Aaron?
Hey, thanks in just such great content and great information. There was a lot of engagement and questions. So do you mind just answering a couple of questions related to your content? Real quick.
(Sure, go ahead.)
All right, so one question was with more people watching news and TV, would you recommend television perhaps over social media or is it a both and, or what’s your recommendation there?
You know, it is, that’s a great question. Here’s the deal. In our experience, it is now both. One of the things we write about a lot,is that everybody’s multitasking. They’re watching TV and they’ve got their iPad or phone in front of them. So I don’t know if it’s necessarily either / or. It’s integrated. We see, for example, one of our clients is an addiction center hates to put phone numbers on their ads They just feel like they don’t want to look too salesy.
And so we see that as when we’re on radio or on TV, their website just explodes with activity. So that’s really why we are an integrated agency. I love digital (but advertising works well in conjunction with it). I would try to do both.
All right, thank you. Helpful. A couple of more while we got you. So in reference to the Facebook Messenger slide, are these Facebook they considered HIPAA compliant?
They are, if you set it up right. I’m not giving legal advice. Let’s start right there. But remember these are private messages that are coming from a prospect to the provider through a bot. So consult your own attorney, but our team feels comfortable using them. This is brand new technology. So I would do your own research, but so far we’re comfortable.
Good. All right, thank you. And then someone was asking about the webinars and what the success has been or attendance what are you seeing there?
Okay, great. So that’s a good, another great question. You know, it’s like the one I just showed as an example. He’s gotten, I don’t know, I think during the first day or two, five registrants. So, not hundreds, not thousands, but response depends on the topic too.
But one thing I didn’t share very well before is that’s important for the listeners who are not as familiar with paid social versus organic social. (While organic social is powerful), you’re only reaching your followers. These are people that are already following you. And even then, oftentimes you’re getting just a small percentage of the followers. Meanwhile, with ads on paid social, you can reach tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of prospective patients, and it’s a really good value cost-wise. It allows you to reach a far broader audience.
So I think the capability and, and success of that will be based upon how good your offer is and especially how compelling your topic is. Like right now, we have hundreds of people viewing it on this webinar, which is exciting. We had even hundreds more register who probably want to get the recording.
And while I would like to think the reason is because you and I, Aaron, are so good looking and smart, it’s really because the topic is so timely. So I feel like the right timely content is everything, the right offer. So we are seeing that this is brand new. I’ll just say for our listeners, whether you’re with agencies or whether you’re with hospitals or whatever, this is a great chance to try things that you wouldn’t have gotten around to before. And this is how breakthroughs happen.
Great. Great point. Thank you Stewart. And please keep asking questions and we’ll have a time at the end of the webinar to go through a number more.
Thank you for asking those. I’m happy to help. I’m having a blast with this. This is great. So, yeah.
All right. So a lot of my contents going to dovetail into what Stewart described. And for those of you who don’t know, Binary Fountain is a customer experience platform and we help healthcare systems, a number of different industries.
We have a large contingent in the healthcare with large enterprises down to large medical groups and mid-size and even down to small, smaller clinics. So we analyze a lot of online data, we analyze a lot of first party surveys patient satisfaction surveys and we get a lot of detail. And so we’re helping businesses not only manage all of their listings on the third party platforms like Google my business and Facebook and Vitals and health, Verizon getting all of their information accurate, but then also monitoring their reputation online. So what we did is a little study and we’re doing this study weekly just in looking at all of the mentions per platform where COVID-19 and related terms are being mentioned and the frequency and quantity.
So what we’re seeing is right now Twitter’s exploding and this is related to our brands and the mentioned the, with these terms in relation to our brands. And we cover about over 250 clients. And again, often they are, have hundreds of locations and cover hundreds of providers. And so we’re seeing a lot of activity there. Of course we’re seeing a lot of information and surveys, but then Facebook is number two to Twitter.
But in terms of mentions, Twitter is, is just dominating. And there with regards to the brands, there’s a lot of questions there. People are getting answers and some cases not getting answers and others. But we are encouraging clients to manage and you know, make sure that you are having a pretty good strategy for each one of these platforms as it’s mentioned, but also spending time where the most questions and activity is happening. So there goes Twitter, Facebook, Google, you’d expect to be a lot higher. But since Google had suspended their reviews their numbers aren’t as high. And so we were seeing quite a bit of lift.
Technology we are seeing Google started to increase and then there is that freeze and not as many reviews there. So it’s kind of interesting and you guys may be thinking that as well. So some of the best practices that we’re seeing on social media you’re, we’re seeing a lot of activity and good brand promotion on various social media platforms. Folks in giving information, helping their patients and the consumers and also employees and get most up-to-date information. Many of them answering questions and linking over to their own website where there’s valuable information. And I’m sure many of you on this call have been doing that as well. You’ll see the engagement there. There’s when there’s questions being timely to making sure that your dispelling disinformation in health systems, communities and providers, physicians are so important in this particular space right now where there’s so many different rumors and just so much coming at patients and they’re looking for trusted resources and are seeing that the providers are filling an incredible void right now when they are able to answer those questions.
Twitter, there’s a lot of noise. There’s a lot of times I’ve seen some angry posts and some definitely the misinformation and rumors. And just some the wild, wild West that sometimes. Twitter is, and our recommendation is not necessarily to answer every single one of those. You can’t, you don’t have enough resources. There’s not enough time, but there’s definitely when there is an opportunity to answer a question directly or direct and that comment or reviewer poster to correct information on your own website or social channel. We’re seeing a lot of customers having success in there and a, a large click through rate as well going to their own content with the correct information. So, you know, make sure that you’re responding to those questions calmly in a transparent manner. But also you’re not having to answer every single person that’s out there either with relation to your brand.
It’s just too much where you can take those comments, whether it’s on a review platform, on a Facebook post or in Twitter, taking those offline. Right now the challenges, we know there are not a lot of resources offline to handle the calls that are coming in. So I say only take it offline right now. If you have somebody who’s going to pick up the phone and an actual human being to answer those questions, if not, it may be a bad patient experience or a bad brand experience. So be careful, you know, prior to COVID-19, I’m, I’m saying for the most part when you can’t resolve something online then almost always take it offline. But right now things are different and resources are scarce that many of these provider locations and systems. So you guys make that call when you can and when it makes sense to take it offline, but only if there’s a human being to answer.
Next seeing content recommendations, you know, making sure that you’re creating content that answers all the questions on potential questions that you know about is extremely helpful. So I referenced this earlier just in terms of all of the different misinformation. But you know, we’re seeing our customers pages and locations on their own website and social channels that are answering frequently asked questions. And I recommend that this too, for those that even though Google your patients and their family members and consumers aren’t able to post questions right now to your Google my business page, you can anticipate what some of those questions are and do a Google post related to COVID and Google is prioritizing those on the Google my business page. So there’s a real opportunity there to provide information in Google my business and Google my business posts to create content for that particular channel and then link it back to your own website with them, the information and frequently asked questions.
You know, Revive Health, they did a survey last week and I encourage everybody to look at Revive Health survey and study, but they showed that local health care experts are trusted 86%, 86% of the respondents said they trusted local health experts. And with regards to Coronavirus information, massive opportunity. If you’re a marketer and you’re a content producer for your facility, for your system, now is the time to engage your physicians. And I know the front lines are so inundated and they are swamped. And like Stewart said, just so appreciate everything that they’re doing in the communities, but with, there’s an opportunity if you have some physicians that may not be on the front lines and they may not have the patient volume that they normally have right now, might be a good time to engage with them to see if you can get some video content and ask them, maybe do an interview and produce some blogs that are helpful, that are providing relevant and good information.
You know, posting information if there’s a need for supplies and we know across the country there’s different hotspots and there are different needs and definitely from health system to health system, the needs vary a little bit, but if there are needs, it might be appropriate to be posting some of those that information on your social channels and on your own website. And then you know, what’s interesting is I’m sure many of you follow what Cleveland Clinic does is such an amazing job with health content and with just all the way around in marketing. But you know, Amanda toward [inaudible] on Twitter the other day mentioned that the health essentials portion or sites or health essential site, they had over 11 million sessions in March. And according her, that’s 3 million higher than the previous month traffic. So, you know, we’re, we are all not going to be Cleveland Clinic and it was something when I was at HCA, we aspired to Oh man, were it to be, have all the content that they had, but in your corner of the world and where you’re at, it might be a good opportunity to start creating some content relevant to COVID and on a consistent basis and where it is helpful and providing value.
You can start small. It doesn’t have to be health essentials. That’s pretty aspirational. But you can start where you’re at. Your community wants to hear from you for sure. And then we’re recommending from a consistency and communication on all of the various channels. You know, you know, sometimes and some companies, social is not managed by the same people who manage the digital content and these contents. There’s two silos. Seeing that a number of times, but there is an opportunity to make sure that you are lockstep, your content team is feeling the same information to both social and to the digital teams that are postings and making updates on the websites are really important. It sounds common sense, but you’d be surprised that some of the things that we’ve seen who were not necessarily congruent there are customers here that are doing a great job of this and making sure everything is just lock step with their digital channels with their social and with their own website.
And then obviously in phone, their call centers, everyone’s operating from some the same playbook and we’re really important there. So demand generation versus providing information. I mean, this is shows just week to week the amount, so it’s not apparent here, but it completely, but this was a nine days we saw it and go up just double from the week of March 22nd to March 31st we saw a massive increase and what people are talking about online. And with regards to COVID. So really important to, you know, all of the effort right now in responding and putting out good information related to COVID. Don’t lose sight that there will be a day and we don’t know when obviously, but there will be a time where demand generation comes in really strong and there are some demand generation obviously right now for telemedicine.
We’re seeing that. And so there is opportunity if you have those services and capabilities to be making sure that you’re not ignoring that piece of demand generation for your clinics and for your providers. But you know, there will be a day where this will be over. And so there is an opportunity right now to look at what does a 60 or 90 days from now look like and what are those activities and what are the demand generation activities going to happen that are outside of cope. And finally on listings management. So this has been a really incredible time in the listings management space. So as far as the volume and the changes, the temporary closures and the updates to ours and the changes that the platforms have made. So you know, it’s really important just when we’re seeing a 60% increase and just the Google my business call volume right now.
Google released a new, or not in Google, but schema.org released and Stewart mentioned that they’re released a new schema type for the COVID-19 specific items. So if you have not checked that out, look at schema.org and the new COVID-19 specifications and if possible, implement those on your site to make sure that your content has structured appropriately so people can find and get the answers, their questions answered, really important there. But you know, if there’s been a change in hours or service suspensions or revised contact information Google is providing more priority for health systems. So it’s still, you know, at times tough. But please update all of your Google my business pages. Of course, all your other third party directories as well. If you’ve not done that, very important. And we’ve been posting articles on how to do this, what to update kind of Binary Fountain.com at the top there’s a carpet area you can click on and we’ve published a number of blogs and then we’ve had webinars in the past and cover some of these items as well.
So Google temporarily suspending reviews as I mentioned along with the Google Q&A. there’s there they will be. Now if you post before it was the posters who are leaving reviews didn’t know that their reviews were not being posted. But now Google is saying that, Hey, this is temporarily disabled indicating that there will be a time in the future where these posts will be posted. I doubt all posts will be there. Hopefully they will take some of the ones that are damaging or not accurate with regards to the health system. Hopefully they won’t let those posts. But those are coming soon to the business Google descriptions, Google recommend adding information about any extra precautions, putting those into Google with descriptions. And then they’re temporarily allowing for small edits to your business name when it’s applicable. So testing centers, virtual visits, appointments, only a drive through curbside pickup, you know, those things.
They’re allowing businesses to upstate there. Those particular business names where you can make a change. So it’s apparent to those that are looking on their phone or on a desktop. And then the Google post, I mentioned those earlier, but they are being, those are going to be live for 14 days after you publish them. So that’s an extension Google has made. And within response to the COVID-19 crisis and regarding Yelp, just touching on them, for those of you who get a number of Yelp reviews they announced a zero-tolerance policy for any reviews of a person contacting COVID from a business or its employees. So they’re not allowing any of those reviews to go out. You can customize the COVID-19 alert message at the top of your Yelp business page now. So that’s something else that they’ve added.
And there’s going to be more virtual services that they are going to be offering virtual classes, virtual consultation. So if your particular community is a heavy Yelp user with regards to healthcare, some aren’t, some are make sure that you’re aware of those updates. All right. That was a lot of information squeezed in there. We have a couple of more questions, so let me get to those real quick.
Stewart standby. My Q&A is not showing up exactly, but I have them right here. Here’s the question. I’m in this medical spa business. What is your feeling about doing virtual consultations and selling gift cards online? I want to be sensitive not to be asking for money at this time. Stewart, do you want to take that one?
Yeah. I think that’s makes sense. You know, it’s funny my wife and I are joking, like, I’m going to look like seventies guy. By the time this is over, right. New haircut. I think that’s going to come back. And my wife is complaining her gray hairs starting to show up underneath the dye. It’s like I haven’t seen her real hair color for a long time, so I think, there are people that are still interested in these things. I think the idea of doing it like that, if you’re not taking money now or you’re doing those kinds of consultations, people are bored. I would just experiment with it. You can stop if you try it and it doesn’t work.
I would agree. Somebody asked about having a Zoom panel discussion for the public with our providers. I’ll take that one and Stewart you can jump into, but I think that that’s a great opportunity where you have influence in your community. I think it’s great for the providers. You know, I’ve talked to a number of provider friends and they’re, they’re uncertain right now. They know it’s going to come back, but some of them are not working in the ER or in the ICU or you know, for the health system as far as in they’re waiting for their patients to come back. And so there is some capacity and some areas and I think would be beneficial if you have those providers who are willing and can provide value to your community. It’s not only good for the community, but it’s good for those providers, their own personal brand and then the brand of the health system. Stewart, any thoughts on that one?
Yeah, sure. I love it and I just think, you know, I’m a creative guy, right? So this is fun to me. Like what I would do is take that idea and maybe here’s a good supplement. What if you created like a regular weekly show? You know, that would be cool. You could have your feature, your providers, you can have themes that are topical. And especially if you’re like in a hospital or hospital system, it’s a great opportunity to highlight various topics. You know, it’s funny you mentioned that earlier that some specialists are probably helping out in the ER and helping out with, you know, telemedicine patients depending on where the hospital is located. Obviously it varies a lot, right? New York is overwhelmed. Other states hardly feel anything right now. This is an opportunity to truly take thought leadership.
And remember, we’re trying to help people. So there’s a double whammy there. And I would just say if you do this for sure of your organic channels, but man, that paid social is so great. Instagram or Facebook paid in particular, we get such fantastic results with those for our clients. Beause you can reach people that you otherwise wouldn’t. So it’s a combination of paid and organic social to promote that. You know, this opportunity won’t happen again. Everybody’s home. So, yeah, I love that idea.
Yeah, great idea. Somebody asked about texting versus emailing patients, you know, it’s a lot of that is dictated by your organization or the contact information that you have taken on intake as far as in your registration papers on what can or cannot and contacting the patients. So every organization is going to be different. Every business is going to be a little bit different. But a lot of that I would just refer you to your own. What has the patient provided permission or consent to how to be contacted? Texting rates. Obviously if you do have permission to contact them through texting, depending on the message and what you’re communicating. Texting has obviously a higher open rate and a higher click through rate than email. But you know, it the depends on the message is what I would say. Stewart. Anything extra to add on that?
Absolutely. And the texting is so intrusive. It’s very powerful. You just have to use it correctly.
Good. good question here. How does downstream provider services such as radiology engage with physicians who are moving to telemedicine instead of traditional B2B methods? That’s a great question. Stewart, do you want to take that one?
There’s opportunities that are surprising. You know, with radiology and radiation oncology, they’re not usually the stars of the show. They’re usually behind the scenes, but it does vary. We have a highly prestigious and well respected radiation oncology group in New Jersey. In normal times we do paid social for things like prostate cancer and radiation for an alternative to Mohs surgery – and it works. So even something like radiation oncology that you wouldn’t think would be very consumer direct has opportunity, does have some.
So if you’re looking at radiology or imaging, just making this up, we might not be doing routine mammograms in this environment. But if you feel a lump, then what, how do you really know what that is? So there’s an example of some thought leadership. You could take almost any specialty and find a compelling angle, that’s what’s fun about this business is just trying to think a little harder and you might find an idea that can be, wow, that’s cool. And then you’re also engaging your doctors that way. So, they can feel heard and be part of the program.
Okay, great. Great. great. We’re going to end on that question. I know we are about to go. We’re a little over now, but thank you Stewart and thank you all for joining. We will be sure to follow up with those questions we weren’t able to answer during the session. So we’ll send a response there and if you have any additional questions, I know Stewart and I am available as well. Please feel free to reach out. Thank you for joining us. We will be sending the recording soon to all the participants along with additional resources that might come up for further guidance from all of us at Binary Fountain. We hope you stay well and you stay healthy. We’re here to help. So please let us know and I’m sure Stewart, you all at Healthcare Success feel the same way. So I’ll speak on behalf of both of us. We’re here to help here to provide any assistance that we can stay safe. Thank you for joining.