COVID-19 and Flu Season: Tips on Communicating with Patients Digitally
Providers are bracing for flu season with COVID-19 still a threat across the U.S. Many, including Cleveland Clinic, are referring to this as a potential “twindemic” as the 2020/2021 flu season and COVID-19 converge this fall. As a result, many places are preparing for the flu vaccine demand with Walgreens and CVS taking extra precautions and increasing their supply.
If COVID-19 guidelines are followed, including wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping social distance, the flu season may be less severe than in years past. However, it is up to providers to communicate with their patients on how to prepare for flu season. Like much of the communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, the best approach is digital communication.
If you haven’t started communicating with patients yet, start now. You may even consider creating an entire campaign for flu season around encouraging patients to get their flu shot and to follow health precautions like Kaiser Permanente.
Many doctors and health officials, including the CDC, are recommending patients to get vaccinated by the end of October. In order to avoid the possibility of a twindemic, make this a priority within your messaging and put it front and center with your COVID-19 communications.
PatientBond recently completed its national study of health consumer attitudes and behaviors in the era of COVID-19, called the 2020 PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic. The study found that nearly 60 percent of patients said they would switch healthcare providers if they felt better prepared to deal with COVID-19. Getting out in front of the flu season with proactive patient engagement is not only important for a healthy patient population, but also to patient loyalty.
Utilize a Variety of Digital Tools
If you’re going to use digital tools to communicate with patients about the flu vaccine, there are plenty of resources to choose from and use. For starters, a digital health platform is ideal for managing this part of the care journey with the option to incorporate text messaging, emails, automated phone calls and telemedicine.
You can also try other digital means to get your message to a larger audience, like social media and digital ads, either through social media platforms or Google. If you want to be hyper-targeted with your messaging locally, try banner ads during local news programs.
And despite reopenings across the country, telemedicine’s relevance isn’t dying down anytime soon and COVID-19 has changed the way patients are meeting with their doctor. According to the 2020 PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic, 52.7% of the general population is open to using telemedicine for illnesses for cold, cough and flu. For those on Medicaid, those numbers are even higher. And in general, 30.5% of patients intend to use telemedicine/virtual consult after COVID-19.
There are more options than just these, but they are good options to get your message out there to a lot of people.
Make Messaging Clear & Resources Accessible
Patients are managing multiple priorities amid COVID-19, especially those with kids heading back to school. The guidelines for some schools are changing weekly and parents may not have the bandwidth to remember flu season. Even those without children or who are older likely have trouble keeping up with the latest precautions, so it shouldn’t be a goose chase to find the information they need about flu season.
The solution? Make it as easy as possible. A great way to make flu guidelines easy to find is to post a link embedded within a slider on your homepage that goes directly to a flu landing page. You can also try embedding an appointment scheduling button on your homepage or even integrate these capabilities into a digital health platform.
This messaging can resonate more with patients using psychographic segmentation within the PatientBond Digital Health Platform. PatientBond uses psychographics, which represent a person’s values, beliefs and lifestyles, to determine what motivates a patient to take action on their health. Providers can have patients take a quick classifier to determine their segment and from there, providers interact with their patients based on their segment-specific communication preferences, which include message word choice and channel mix. So while everyone could get a message about flu guidelines, one patient may get a text that urges them to schedule their flu shot asap while another may get an email with detailed information about flu guidelines. It allows the message to appeal to more people and push patients to advocate for their health.
Flu season is always unpredictable and this year it may be even more so. Ensuring that you’re staying on top of communications will allow your patients to improve health outcomes and help your center improve market share over time.