Over the last few weeks, I’ve been having conversations with my friend and colleague Alan Shoebridge (@AlanShoebridge) about the changes we may well see in the markets we serve as a result of the pandemic. We’ve shared some of these discussions publicly through panel discussions, conference presentations, and various posts. Check out some of Alan’s blog posts on the subject at https://www.alanshoebridge.com/blog-1. Alan raised the issue weeks ago in response to the proliferation of articles and posts about hospitals needing to create post-pandemic marketing strategies. In all those conversations, nobody was talking about the changed consumer. As marketers, understanding the market(s) we serve is about as fundamental as it gets!
So what changes should we expect? It’s not rocket science but it will vary by market. For example, Alan’s hospitals, because of its location, depends a great deal on the tourism industry. Changes in travel and tourism as a result of the pandemic will directly impact his hospital. One thing I know for sure is that many of the people we served in the past will now be uninsured and unemployed. The latest number I’ve seen is 36.5 million people unemployed in the United States as of May 14, 2020. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 27 million people in the U.S. may have lost employer-sponsored insurance due to job losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When you combine the impact of unemployment and loss of insurance, you have to expect that the market you serve will be changed and have fewer resources to avail themselves of your services.
There are also the people in your market who still have insurance but who are in no hurry to return to medical facilities because they are fearful. This will impact patient volume for some time to come. I shared my perspective on this in a blog post and video two weeks ago: https://thehealthcaremarketer.wordpress.com/2020/05/06/overcoming-consumers-fear-of-returning-to-medical-facilities/.
Finally, segments of your community that are underserved and suffer from health disparities will likely face even greater challenges as we come out of this crisis. These populations will need your help and the support of other community organizations. If we’re going to address health disparities in our communities, our hospitals and health systems will need to embrace community partnerships going forward that allow us to take on the social determinants of health and other factors that contribute to these inequities. I’ve always believed that marketers and communicators can play a central role in making these collaborations work!
Without a doubt, our communities have been changed by the crisis. Moving forward things will not be business as usual despite what some people say. So, before you create your post-pandemic marketing plan, be sure to spend some time thinking about how the audience mix has changed within your market as a result of COVID-19. Anticipate that it will take longer than usual for our organizations to recover and it will take a sustained effort on our part. Flexibility and adaptability will be important. As many people have said, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Trite but true.