In February 2020, the world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. And no industry was impacted as quickly and intensely as healthcare.
Hospitals and medical centers had to prioritize COVID-19 patient care, and as a result, had to shift various segments of their business. Many elective procedures were halted. Some in-office appointments were canceled or went virtual. And visitors were strictly limited or prohibited.
Our client, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health, was one of many healthcare organizations that had to respond quickly to the changing circumstances of COVID-19.
“If you remember the first couple months of the pandemic, the public couldn’t consume enough information about COVID-19 and its impact and implications,” recalls Metro Health’s Executive Vice President, Medical Group President, and Chief Population Health Officer Dr. Raki Pai. “It was our mission to equip our community with the critical information they needed and to communicate policy and procedure changes that would impact their healthcare.”
Communication priority 1: virtual visits
The first shift Metro Health made in early 2020 was to let patients know that virtual visits with healthcare providers were available. Even though the pandemic was raging, patients still needed care unrelated to COVID-19. Yearly check-ups, lab work, and care for unplanned issues were still necessary and, fortunately, could be handled virtually.
“We didn’t have a very robust virtual care platform early on,” Dr. Pai admits. “But we turned that around in 7-8 days and facilitated 20,000 virtual care visits in a matter of weeks.”
Virtual care became the primary driver for seeing patients safely. Dr. Pai says it was the predominant way providers saw patients in April and most of May 2020.
The availability of virtual care was communicated to the public and patients through direct mail, email, social media, Metro Health’s website, MyChart, radio ads, and outdoor billboards.
Communication priority 2: we’ll see you safely
Nearly simultaneously to the launch of Metro Health’s virtual visits campaign, plans for a hybrid visit campaign began. Metro Health leadership knew in-person visits would return, and they would have to let patients know when that was safe to do so.
“For weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, Metro Health communicated the importance of staying away from primary care offices and the hospital,” ddm president Jordan Buning explains. “They did this successfully and patients stayed home. But convincing patients that it was safe to come back required a new plan.”
The goal of the “We’ll See You Safely” campaign was to let the community know Metro Health providers were available—and ready—to see patients in the way patients wanted to be seen, virtually or in person. They needed to cultivate trust, hope, and confidence in face-to-face healthcare again.
We needed to pivot and reassure the public that Metro Health is there for them when and how they need us.
We communicated the strict safety measures we had in place and made it clear that our offices were safe. Dr. Raki Pai, Executive Vice President
With ddm as its partner, Metro Health executed an integrated marketing campaign that involved display ads, print ads, billboards, local media homepage takeovers, paid and organic social media, email, and other public relations efforts.
“There was a lot of agility that had to happen to get this campaign launched quickly,” Jordan shares. “Day to day and moment to moment, the circumstances were changing and both teams – ours and Metro Health’s – had to react quickly.”
Curious how other organizations adapted their communication strategies?
We detail the pandemic stories of four of our clients.
The result: patients received care when and how they needed it
Through its We’ll See You Safely campaign, Metro Health was able to successfully reactivate patients and reassure them that in-person visits were safe. Patients know they have control of the care they want—when and how they want it.
“The key is always communicating and treating patients like our own family members,” Dr. Pai emphasizes. “When we’re making decisions that are in alignment with how we’d treat our family, we’re making good decisions for the community as a whole. And I believe that’s what we did.”
Through coordination, communication, teamwork—and a lot of Microsoft Teams meetings—both campaigns were successful in achieving Metro Health’s goals.
Metro Health has reestablished many of the in-person visits it initially lost at the start of the pandemic. Patients are getting the care they need in the ways they need it and feel most comfortable with.
And that was the goal. Jordan Buning, president, ddm marketing + communications