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Core Exchange: How to help patients during the pandemic

Exploration of new research reveals patient and caregiver mindsets are changing

Recently, we conducted a discussion with Rob Klein, founder and CEO of Klein and Partners, and our Director of Insights and Strategy, Sue Spaight. The pair covered key highlights of the third wave of Rob's national study: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Healthcare Perceptions and Behaviors. This study, fielded in June 2020, provides valuable and immediately actionable insights to help healthcare marketing and communications professionals gain the confidence of their patients, bring them back into their systems for care and understand how to support caregivers during this difficult time.

You can listen to the podcast episode using the player embedded below, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes. You can also watch the video discussion here.


  • Core Exchange | How to help patients now: Wave 3 research

Episode Transcript:

Angi Krueger: Welcome to the Core Exchange: A Healthcare Marketing Podcast. I'm Angi Krueger, Vice President of Marketing from Core Health, Core Creative, a specialized healthcare marketing practice. This week, we welcome my colleague, Sue Spaight, Director of Insights and Strategy and Rob Klein from Klein and Partners.

In this podcast, you'll be listening in on a webinar recorded in July of 2020 where they had a live discussion about Wave 3 of Rob's research on how the coronavirus is impacting healthcare perceptions and behaviors.

Rob Klein: So again, welcome, everyone. So glad you could be with us today.

So the survey was an online survey that we conducted nationally among consumers, heads of household. We talked to a little more than 500 folks, 511 to be exact. And as I said, it was a national random sample of adults. This is Wave 3, actually of a three part series. So Wave 1 of this survey was back in early April. Wave 2 was in early May. And then in mid June, we fielded Wave 3 because this is a journey that we're all on and things are changing, as you can imagine, almost daily for consumers and how they're feeling and what they want to do. So we felt that it was important to have a multiple look across time at the information.

Anywhere in the charts you see arrows or even letters, it indicates a statistically significant difference between those two data points. We'll point them out as we get to them, but I just wanted to prompt you with that. So with that, Sue, let's get into it.

Sue Spaight: Thanks, Rob. So Angi, you can advance. I'm going to talk us through some of Core's favorite highlights from the study here that we've been using most in our work with our clients on a day-to-day basis since this was published, and even in some of the earlier waves. And then we'll turn it over to Rob to do a deeper dive into what we know now from this wave about how to start getting patients back in our doors.

So starting with what Americans are feeling right now. Last time through this, we were really happy to see that the positive emotions, hope and optimism and inspiration are outweighing the loneliness, anger, fear and anxiety that people feel. And that certainly continues to be the case. The negative emotions have abated even a little bit more since the prior wave, though they are significantly stronger among women and those 18 to 44 who, of course make up a sizable part of our decision making audience as healthcare systems.

And also, those negative emotions are not as high as the positives, but they're certainly not gone. We are still contending with a lot of fear and anxiety among our patient base and our communities as evidenced by the fact that crisis centers and crisis call lines are being really overwhelmed right now. So it's good that they're lower than the positive. We hope they continue to abate. And it will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve with some of the surges that we're seeing right now. So moving on, Ang.

Angi Krueger: All right. I'm having some issues here moving on. Uh-oh, it's not advancing on me. Let me see. Oh, there we go.

Sue Spaight: There we go. So Rob's study also looks at level of concern with a number of specific topics here. And here too, we see some continued abatement in fear of a household member getting the virus, financial fears, personal safety and things like that. However, we also see concerns about emotional well-being and spiritual health on the rise as the pandemic continues, so that is very concerning.

And you'll see a theme throughout the discussion today in many of Rob's findings with regard to the critical importance of mental health support for our patients right now. Anything you want to add on that one, Rob? Feel free to jump in anytime. You know these like the back of your hand.

Rob Klein: No, you're going good so far.

Sue Spaight: Okay, thanks. So this is one of the most important findings in our view, and we've been having a lot of conversations about this because even though the negative emotions of our communities are abating, the event, the negative emotions of our frontline workers are only growing, according to this data.

So we see among caregivers some pretty concerning levels of loneliness and anger and fear and anxiety here. And these are the folks that we want to be delivering incredible empathetic care. And it's really, obviously, very difficult to do that when you're feeling really stressed out and pressured and you're suffering yourself. So I think the question that Rob poses here, "As an industry, how can we help our caregivers get through this emotionally," is spot on and so critical in something that every health system should be giving serious attention to right now.

This is going to be a long haul and our frontline workers are struggling. And for them to continue giving the level of care they're giving now for any extended period of time, we're just going to have to step up and support them in every possible way.

So this is a really rich slide here. We could probably spend 20 minutes just on this slide. I'll hit a few highlights. So this is things that would make patients switch providers. And what Rob has been finding over these past couple of waves is that, the main reasons that people will switch are reasons of attitude or empathy, safety and access primarily as the top three.

So if you look at that top item, "My current provider lacks empathy for my situation," one in five people will switch providers if they feel like you're lacking empathy alone. And so, that just really underscores the importance of that empathetic care. We see you. We hear you. We understand the fear and anxiety that you're dealing with right now. It's so important in our messaging and our communication for us to have those empathy statements for people front and center in everything that we're doing. They need that from us.

Access has been getting somewhat better. Fewer people are saying that they will be switching for reasons of access. However, many still will switch if someone else can see them faster, or if someone else is easier to work with in getting rescheduled. So it's crucial that as we start getting patients increasingly back in our doors as long as that's possible, that we're making that easy for them, and that we're getting them in as quickly as we possibly can. And then, of course, we need to be reinforcing those critical safety points, which Rob will do a much deeper dive into in a little bit here.

This is new to this wave. We hadn't asked this previously. Rob and Core work on a few clients together and we really wanted to get a read on medical conditions that people need care for as soon as possible. And so, this was really interesting to see because many of the immediate needs that people have are either directly or indirectly related to mental health. So all of the brown items here, stress and anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, headaches, weight gain, sleep issues, drug and alcohol abuse all can in some way be tied back to the needs that we're seeing throughout a data for mental health support.

And then we also see a few key service line related needs emerging here. So for orthopedics, with 6% saying they need to be seen immediately for joint pain. For cardiovascular care, with 6% saying they need help with heart pain, arrhythmia, or heart screening. And then cancer treatment and screening also showing up in the data here as things that people want to get in for immediately.

Some great learning in Rob's research about virtual visits. And so, the biggie here is, of course that virtual visit line. And in the first wave, 5% of people had tried a virtual visit for the first time. And by the second time, it was up to 12. And now, as of this wave, it's all the way up to 22. So that's, obviously a trend that we don't expect to reverse anytime soon. Obviously, it won't grow as quickly. But virtual visits aren't going anywhere anytime soon. They are, as Rob says, here to stay. That's true for virtual mental health sessions as well, which we saw continue to grow within, during this past wave.

At the same time that people have tried them for the first time during the pandemic so far, they're saying that they will definitely continue to do them after the coronavirus. So virtual visit looked like a clear, longterm winning strategy at this point, something that we need to have available for people.

It's even more used among the African American and Latin X communities, which is consistent with other research that we're seeing about how those communities are more likely to forgo care. They are, of course taking a lot of the brunt of the coronavirus too with higher rates of the virus in those communities. So virtual visits are really a critical way for them to be able to connect and for us to be able to get them care.

And then we were really happy to get this data. We've been using this a lot. It's pretty consistent with what we expected to see, but we've always wanted the hard data on what are the barriers that keep people from trying virtual visits, so that we can message accordingly and try to get people over those barriers. So the number one barriers was, it just feels too impersonal. This is people who haven't tried virtual care and aren't sure that they're ever going to, so the objectors. It's too impersonal. I just would like to see my doctor in person, or they just don't know enough yet, or they feel like they can always see their doctor, or maybe not trust the quality of care, or online privacy. So those are the biggies and the things that we need to overcome when we're marketing virtual visits.

Rob, you have such a great story that you use about your work when ATMs were introduced. I'm stealing your data here, but I'm not going to attempt to steal your story. I can't tell that as well as you can, so why don't you jump in with that.

Rob Klein: Oh, sure, sure. Yeah, back in the early '80s, a long time ago when I was in banking, I was doing research on ATMs, which were new at the time. What we found were some of the same basic pushbacks, if you will. "It's impersonal." "I can't trust the quality." "What about privacy?" So we worked to create an understanding in consumers that this was a very safe and private and accurate place to get your money and to do banking. And so now, think about it, can you imagine life without an ATM right now? No, we can't. So the same thing is going to happen with virtual care.

Years from now, people are going to look back and say, "Oh my God, how did we do healthcare without virtual visits?" So we have to help consumers get to that place of comfort by explaining and demonstrating how that this can be personal, this is safe, this is high quality, this is private, things like that. It's a very different tool, but the same objections happened 40 years ago with ATMs. And now, we can't imagine life without them.

Sue Spaight: Yeah. I love your idea too that you've been using in some of our other meetings about some of your clients that are offering the first virtual visit free as a way of demonstrating it. Even that short opportunity to connect with your physician face-to-face through the technology to see for yourself, I think anyone who can implement that absolutely should. It's probably the quickest, easiest way to get over all of these objections in one fell swoop.

And then this is about how people first learned about virtual visits. And it really underscores that, yes, we need to talk about it in social media and we need to have it on our websites, and we need to do paid search. And we need to do all of the marketing tactics that we're doing behind virtual visits. But, it's far and away even more critical to make sure that our physician offices, our clinics are equipped to get it in front of people and communicate about it effectively, because for the most part, when people are learning about it, it's coming from their doctor's office either when an appointment was canceled, or when they called in to make a new appointment. So working to make sure those offices are equipped with the messaging and an understanding of how to overcome the objections that we just saw.

Rob Klein: And Sue, I think it's important too to talk about that physicians really are becoming the face and the voice of our brand during this time. And in many ways, they're the fifth P of marketing. They're personal selling. And so, we've got to make sure we're equipping them with education and tools and resources, so that they can proactively communicate with their patients. As I said, they're the frontline. And it really is about empathic access. Not only do we have to proactively provide access to consumers, but we've got to do it in a way that acknowledges their fears and their anxieties and we work with them.

I'm telling clients, "Everybody that talks to a patient on the phone, whether a doctor, a nurse, a call center person, it doesn't matter, we're all part-time therapists now." People need to be acknowledged and supported.

Sue Spaight: Absolutely. And I think sometimes we, as marketers, want to shy away from that. We won't necessarily want to acknowledge the negative emotion because we want to be positive and we want to just say everything is great. And the reality is, it's the number one thing that we all want is just to be seen and heard. And so, that little bit of true empathy would just... It's okay for us to say, "You know what? We know it's scary right now." We don't have to avoid that and dance around it in our communication. It's okay and in fact, it's really positive and effective to acknowledge it. So with all of that said, I think I will turn it over to Rob to do a deeper dive here.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. And if anyone has any questions, I can't see the chat right now, but feel free to unmute yourself. If anyone has any additional questions or wants to chime in and comment, feel free to do so. We want this to be interactive if you'd like it to be, so go ahead. Otherwise, Rob, you can go on ahead and move forward.

Rob Klein: Alrighty. Well, let's take a look at the next slide. We all know, we need patients to come back and patients need our help to come back. It is more than ever a symbiotic relationship. And so, we've got to prime the pumps. If you think about starting an engine, when you start it in the cold, you can't rev it right away because you'll blow it. So think of starting an engine, warming it up as revenue, and then profits are the revving up once it's warmed. As hard as it is to hear that, we can't go right to having a great profit margin. We've got to get people back in. That means, we've got to help them and work with them whether it's financially. And we're going to take a look at that in just a minute.

So let's start off with what's keeping people... How are they not getting in? So we asked them, "Have you scheduled an appointment or a procedure that you had that got canceled on you during the coronavirus?" And so, the good news is we're not... Other than follow-up visits, which is not good news, that's the one that's up significantly over the past wave right now. So people aren't getting follow-up visits. It's one of the easiest types of visits to turn virtual. Yet, we're not taking full advantage of that. But, we have seen a stemming a bit of the proportion of people that had something canceled. That's flattened out a bit right now. But, it still is the majority of people have had something canceled.

So we've got a lot people to have to come back in and that we have to take care of eventually. So there is going to be an influx that we have to be ready for. And that means, we've got to be creative, excuse me, on how they come in, where they come in, when they come in, with whom they are seen. So it's about how do we get creative in our access, so that we can get people caught up and continue as this goes on?

On the next chart, what we see is, we asked folks what their level of concern is about rescheduling an appointment or a procedure. What concerns do they have? Fortunately, you look at the dark blue bar, that's the Wave 3 and it's not any higher. It's slightly lower than the light blue bar, which is Wave 2. So concerns are moderate in terms of, I'm going to get it, or I won't be able to be seen in a timely manner, they'll have all the supplies I need, et cetera. So these levels of concern, they're still elevated, but they're not as high as I thought they might get. So people are concerned, but there is not a full on panic about this, which is a good thing.

What is of some concern is that across all of these questions about concern or negative emotions, women and those 18 to 44, specifically, their concern levels are significantly higher, along with African American and Latin X communities, not surprisingly. The African American community is being hit much disproportionately harder than other communities with the coronavirus. So your messaging is not a one size fits all. It has to be targeted specifically to really connect with those communities in what concerns that they're expressing, not just a global one size fits all.

On the next slide, so if you could go back one.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. There we go.

Rob Klein: There we go. Thank you. So if folks had their meetings, their appointments canceled, we asked them, "Okay, what did you do about it?" And they could have rescheduled. They're waiting to reschedule because they're just not sure they want to go in yet. They tried to reschedule and couldn't. They don't plan to reschedule at all, or they changed to a virtual visit. The green percentages are significant increase from prior waves. And the red percentages are a significant decrease from prior waves.

And so, you could see with follow-up visit that 27% changed to a virtual visit. But, you've got a good chunk, 32%, which is the plurality, they're waiting. So they need us to be proactive to reschedule them. We can't sit back and be reactive.

One thing I study with consumer behavior over the years is, when a consumer, a human being, is anxious, or worried, or nervous, or afraid, their cognitive reasoning is diminished. And that means, they're not necessarily thinking straight, or with their full faculties. That means, more now than ever, as healthcare providers, we have to step in and do some thinking for them. We've got to be proactive. We have to provide the options for them. We have to basically tell them, do this, do that, come on in, it's going to be safe, here is what we're going to do, we've got your back, we know you're worried, we're going to take care of you. They need to hear that. And so, if we sit back like in the old days and just react to when they come in, we're going to be sitting twiddling our thumbs. We've got to work with them.

The one point on this chart that makes me most concerned is the mental health session. You've got 40% of people who had a mental health session canceled have not rescheduled. They're going unseen right now. We are going to have a mental health crisis in this country like we've never seen before. I'm very concerned about an increase of suicides. We're already seeing a substance abuse increase. Opioid deaths are on the rise. I'm worried about divorces and bankruptcies and homelessness. We are going to be heading with a lag effect here. I'm very concerned about what the new year is going to bring. We have got to be prepared as healthcare providers.

Boy, we always talk about population health, well, now it's real. We've got to take care of the whole person, not just fix them when they're sick. It's physical health, yes, but it's emotional health, spiritual health, financial help, all of those components of the complete person. We've got to take a more proactive role. And that means, we got to step outside our traditional boundaries that we've set for ourselves. Next slide please, Angi.

So I added this question in Wave 2 because I was watching the news and listening to, there was a spike in the number of people that were not going to the ER with heart attack symptoms or stroke symptoms because they were afraid, and many were dying at home. And that's such an unnecessary tragedy. I'm sure we've all seen the Boston PSA where the Boston hospitals talk about if you're having these symptoms, this is the safest place for you to be.

And so, I even have a client that had high risk mothers who were pregnant that decided at the last minute to deliver at home because they were afraid of getting the coronavirus if they went in to deliver. Well, they were high risk, so you can imagine what happened. Many of them ended up in the ER because they had complications that they knew about going in. So it just shows you that they went against their better judgment out of fear. So we can't over communicate enough that hospitals and other care settings, this is what we do, we've always done, to keep people safe. So we are a safe place to go for care.

I think the California hospitals... just because a lot of life is shutting down, care is not. And so, I think that's the great PSA they're doing in LA is that, you're still going to get sick with other stuff. Life still goes on. And you've got to come in for care and we are prepared for you. Next slide.

So let's talk a little bit about what are some things we can do to ease their fears, so safety concerns. It's really about they, what we've taught them, wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands. That's what everybody's been taught, one, two, three. And so, that mantra is what they just want to see us do as well. So what are some things? Social distancing in the waiting room, seeing providers wearing masks and gloves. We've got to walk the talk.

I had a client that tested a PSA with me and they had their doctors and nurses. They weren't wearing masks when they were making their plea because they said, "It muffled the microphone." And it came back, it tested horribly. Consumers said, "Oh, you want me to wear a mask, but it's okay for you not to." So they came off as hypocritical. And they said, "Do you know what? We really screwed up and we're going to reshoot the whole thing," and they did. Thank goodness they tested it first. So we've got to walk the talk, which most of our providers are doing. It's just sometimes as we're presenting their PSAs for them, we've got to be careful. People are watching and listening to everything that we do and say.

Waiting in your car for your appointment time. Our vet does that. We took our cat in and we had to sit in the car. They came out and grabbed our cat, took her in. And we were on the phone as they were examining her. So even the vet clinics, they've caught on. Everyone is doing that.

This pandemic has given us the opportunity to innovate. We've dragged our heals for years not innovating, and now we've had to. Here is the important thing, we've now told Americans that, you know what, we can innovate quickly. So now, we can't go back to our old ways. We have to keep innovating quickly. We've proven we can do it. Now, we need to keep doing it. Next slide.

How about access concerns? No surprise, virtual visits are still number one. But also, extended hours during the week, early morning, late night. I've got clients that are doing surgery and stuff until 9:00 PM. Other access work I've done prior to this, weekday extended hours tends to beat out head-to-head weekend hours. Now, given what's going on with us right now, we've got to get as many people back in as quickly as possible. We can't have banker's hours anymore.

Again, I just go back to my banking days. Remember when banker's hours, that was a negative term. "Oh, you've got banker's hours." Well, we have the same thing. "Oh, you've got healthcare hours." So a friend of mine said to me, "You know, you realize if you work 9:00 to 5:00, 70% of the time you're not open." And I'm like, "You know, I never thought of it that way." So we've got to be accessible for people now, especially, but also going forward. Next slide.

How do patients want us to message with them? And basically, patients get the drill. They want us to explain things. Here is what you do and here is what we're going to do.

I went back a couple months ago and I watched the inaugural speech from FDR back in the '30s. And he talked about, Americans want action and they want action now. And that's what Americans want from us right now. The days of communicating, "Oh, we're all in this together. You can do it, be strong." That kumbaya crap is not playing anymore. We can't do that. It's like an intransitive verb, there is no action. And so, people, we've got to use action verbs. This is what we're doing to keep you safe. This is what you need to do to come in. So it's about action not this, oh, lovey-dovey type stuff, be strong. People are really sick and tired of hearing that. They want action now. Next slide.

And communication preferences, verbal and written. We need to talk with patients, so we can empathize with them and acknowledge their fears. But then, knowing that they're cognitive reasoning is diminished, we can't say, here is 10 things you need to do, and rattle them off verbally. They're going to forget them by the time they hang up. So we've also got to have written communication with them, whether it's email, text, on our website, all of the above, actually because people gather information differently. But, we've also to in a written form tell them, here is what you need to do. Here is what we're doing. So you really need to have both, communication, verbal communication to emphasize and acknowledge, and then written communication to educate. Next slide.

This is one of my favorite questions, I developed this, God, probably 20 years ago, my chicken or egg question. And I adapted it here. And so, we just asked folks, based on what their local providers are doing now handling the coronavirus, how does that make them feel about using them in the future? And if you look down at the creating new positive or new negative, there is so much more upside. Never before have providers been heroes. So what you're doing now will be remembered in the future.

So the bottom line is, if you do really good things now and you have empathy and you have access, then that's going to have your brand go into whatever the new normal is, and whenever the new normal is, with momentum. If you're not doing these things now, you're going to hit headwinds on the way out because, again, as I said, what we do now will be remembered. Next.

And then the confidence in what we're doing now. In the future, how will it impact their confidence in the care you provide in the future? Significantly higher levels of confidence in physicians and preferred hospital compared to pharmaceutical companies, retail clinics, health insurance companies.

I got to tell you my prediction on health insurance companies. They're not doing themselves any favors right now. They're making bank with a lot of monthly premiums coming in and they're not paying as much out. So they're going to make a lot of money, but they're not creating positive good will in consumer's minds right now.

Auto insurance companies are giving back. I got $50 bucks back from my auto insurance company. I mean, it's not earth shattering money, but it was the thought that counted. It made me feel like, okay, they're at least acknowledging what's going on and they're trying to help in a small way. I give them major kudos for that. I'm not seeing anything from my health insurance company on that. So I think that's going to put them in a bad stance when we come out of this, but we'll have to see. Next slide.

How well are healthcare providers handling all of these components? The bottom line, it comes down to three things, providing solutions, learn fast and be empathetic. That's our mantra going forward. We got to be solutions oriented. Meaning, proactive, not wait until [inaudible 00:31:52] client calls up and says, "Hey, doc. I got to do this and what do you think I should do?" We should say, "You know what? We're going to reach out to you first. This is what you need to do. Here is how we've got your back during this difficult time." We got to learn fast. We have to adapt fast. There is a lot of innovation happening to us, not by us, necessarily. So those times have to change. And again, empathetic, I can't say it enough. Remember, empathic access. It's one thing to give people good access to care, but we've got to do it. It's like the old adage, "If you got to do it anyway, you do it with a smile on your face." We've got to do that as an industry. Next slide.

And then on perceptions of PCP's efforts during the pandemic. Not surprising that most people have a primary care and they're doing very well, just like we saw earlier. Providers are doing much better at patient care than the retail pharmacies and insurers and pharmaceuticals. So physicians are doing a good job. And again, as I think I said earlier, they are the face and voice of our brand. They're the fifth P of marketing, personal selling. They're critical. That as a healthcare organization, a system brand, you're working with your physicians to make sure they have the tools and the motivation to really improve access empathetically. Next slide, please.

What we did is we just put a couple of, I blighted them up, but that we did a lot of studies locally because the national study results we've just presented, one size doesn't fit all. If you're a large urban market, or a small Midwestern, or a rural market, people have different experiences. So I just grabbed a couple slides from two different, one large market and one smaller market to show you how local markets can differ in their perceptions. It might be something smart to do, to do a local study to see how you differ from national results.

So if you look on the left side here, we asked, in this local market, we asked, "Do you know people who have the coronavirus?" 43% said a friend has it, 21% had a family member. Basically, two third of people in this large urban market said they knew something with it, that had it. Compared to nationally, that was only about 25% said they knew someone. So what I found in this large urban market is, their concern levels were significantly higher. The bottom line is, when it's just other people you don't know have it, it's too many degrees of separation. But when you know someone, now the disease is in your backyard. That changes your perspective completely. So the correlation between knowing someone and fear levels is really, really strong.

So again, in this large market, we asked folks, "What healthcare behaviors do you think you'll definitely consider doing after the coronavirus?" And the local is green and the dark blue is the national. And look at all the things that are higher for local, primary care office visit, urgent care, email doctor, text my doctor, go to a retail clinic, call center, call the call center, download a hospital app, virtual mental health, website live chatbot, symptom checker chatbot, in-person mental health. Almost all of these were higher in this urban market because they had a more direct connection to knowing someone. Next slide.

So here, we have the opposite. Here we have a smaller more rural type of a Midwestern market. And when we asked them, "What behaviors are you going to do afterwards," their number one by far was, "I want to get back to seeing my doctor." Virtual visits were lower. You could see the circle. And then virtual mental health even was lower. So here is a market that's not as [inaudible 00:36:16] on staying with virtual. And they want to get back to the way things were, and that's going in and seeing my physician.

Their biggest concerns about a virtual visit, it's too impersonal. I want to see my doctor, significantly higher than national. So in this market, working with this client, as a messenger, you've got to work on, okay, how do we... We know what their pushback is. We know we need to have virtual care even in this market. How do we work with them? How do we message them to get them over these concerns that they have, or the pushback that they were giving about it being impersonal? Next slide.

So I think, Sue, what I'd like to do here is the key takeaways, we've literally just addressed everyone of these and folks can read these at their leisure at the end. Angi, go two ahead because I just want to leave folks... Oh, I guess we didn't put the, put that, the, my building blocks in. But the bottom line is, the building blocks of getting people back to care is, where do they come in? Consumers are open to not going to an inpatient, having an outpatient visit instead. So they're open to going to different buildings, if you will. They're also open with whom. They're also open to seeing non-physicians, so if you've got advanced practitioners, like nurse practitioners and physician assistant. So we've got to be creative on the care providers that are available for them to see.

When they come in? Hours, it's not 9:00 to 5:00 anymore. We have to expand their hours. How they come in? It's not just seeing a person. Virtual care is absolutely a critical strategy for all of us to make sure that we've got a handle on it. And I'll tell ya, I've got a lot of clients, they're hearing their physicians saying to their patients, "Well, you know what? We'll do this now, but as soon as this coronavirus is over, I hate virtual visits, we're going to come back to you seeing me." We can't have that. Physicians have to be onboard with this new normal. So with your physician liaison staff, you've got to make sure you're working with physicians to show them that virtual care is not replacing them. It's just another way for people to access. Just like an urgent care office is another way to access primary care.

So what they don't understand is, urgent care, whether it's physical or virtual, that's plan B when my doctor fails to see me. So we need to educate physicians that by having this virtual visit, it's a way for you to be the hero because you're proactively say, "You know, Rob, I can't always see you when you're sick, but this virtual visit, I'll know you had it. And I'll have your records. We've got your back." So you're being proactive. Now, the physician is the hero and not the bum for not being able to see the patient. So it's all in how we educate physicians is going to be very critical, so they understand that access is augmenting what they do. It's not replacing them.

As I tell everybody, "Time is the new currency. You can always make more money, but you can't make more time." And unfortunately, healthcare, we have excelled at wasting people's time over the years. And we can't do that anymore.

So, Sue, anything else that you want to add, or do we want to get the questions?

Sue Spaight: I don't think so. Does anybody have any questions, or experiences on any of these things that they'd be willing to share?

Angi Krueger: I do have a quick question. Rob, with your localized version of the research that you've done with your clients, have you, have they made any significant changes? Do you know of their marketing communications that have seen that research make an impact on what they're trying to achieve?

Rob Klein: Yeah. I think I gave the example earlier with the PSAs. We actually tested one of their videos. And it did really poorly because the physicians and nurses were not wearing masks and they weren't social distancing. So that absolutely saved them from making a very, very bad mistake.

And other clients are working on their messaging in terms of that urban area of really understanding, we've got to train our staff on, not just being good at, "Well, you can't get in now, so we'll get you in here. Oh, we can do a virtual visit," like it's matter of fact. So they're doing more empathetic, if you are, empathic training, for a lack of a better term, with all of their frontline staff to say, "Look, how you talk to our patients is just as important as being able to give them an appointment."

Angi Krueger: Right.

Rob Klein: And so, that training is ongoing too. So I'd say, those are two things where I'm, that are really already going.

Sue Spaight: Yeah, I'll build on that. Actually, one of the clients that we share with Rob is taking some pretty significant actions as a result of the local version of the research that we, Rob just finished for them. They are adding extended weekday hours as a result of the research.

We're working with them to really make sure we're dialing up the empathy in the campaign because when Rob does the local version there is some additional questions [inaudible 00:42:16] that you're not seeing here. And you can assess how people view the empathy of your brand in many ways relative to the empathy of your competitors. And in this case, with one of our clients, they were seen as less empathetic than some of competitors. So we're actually updating the campaign to really make sure we're making a clearer empathy statement. So it's been very, very actionable for them.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, that's great. Have you guys, with this research on all the consumer behavior, seen any differences in how it relates with children's hospitals, specifically?

Rob Klein: Yeah, actually.

Angi Krueger: I mean, I know the audience is parents. But, I was just wondering. There is larger markets, smaller markets there as well, but I was just wondering if you had any examples there you could speak to?

Rob Klein: Yeah, actually I have a pediatric client that did a local market study. Yeah, parents, it's a different situation. What we will put up with for ourselves as adults, we would never put up with for our children. I know I'm stating the obvious. So we are much harder on healthcare providers when it comes to our children's safety than we are for ourselves. So a lot of the messaging in terms of safety is heightened among parents. I'm talking about, here is what we're going to do to keep your child safe and you safe because obviously, the parent has to bring the child in for care.

If you have two adults, a husband and wife, a lot of times the sick person goes in. The other person can't even wait in the waiting room. They say, "Would you go wait in your car?" I had this happen to me. I had to have my wife, I called her from the exam room and I put the phone on the chair, so she could listen to the doctor talk to me. They wouldn't even let her in the facility. Obviously, with parents and children, that's not going to happen.

Angi Krueger: Right.

Rob Klein: So safety is heightened, so how you talk about safety is very important. Virtual care access is even more important for parents. This was true beforehand. It's even more true now. Here is the thing, for parents, if you have a virtual pediatric visit that goes well for a mom, you will make a brand ambassador for life out of them, because you've now bailed them out of a pickle. I tell folks, "It was true before. It's even more true now." Having a virtual care, a pediatric virtual care, not an adult that can also talk and take care of kids, but a virtual pediatric track for their children...

Because what we found is, people don't, are concerned about trying it, but once they do the, I love this, rate is huge with virtual visits. So there is not a retention challenge. There is an acquisition challenge with virtual care. That's important to understand. With parents, once they see how easy this was and it took care of their child without having to get in, or have to wait for the pediatrician to see them, they're safer because they're in their own home, now you have made an ambassador for life out of that parent. So virtual care is critical for hospitals and health systems. It's even more critical for parents.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. Well, that's good insight. Sue, do you have anything else you'd like to add? I suppose, I could stop screen sharing. I guess I could see you bigger. There you are. And if anyone else has any questions, feel free to chime in. But anything else you want to wrap up with, Sue?

Sue Spaight: I don't think so. I think we've hit all the highlights.

Angi Krueger: All right, great. Well, thank you again, both, for your time. As always, this is super insightful information and I'll look forward to more research in the future.

Rob Klein: Thanks, everyone. Have a great day.

Sue Spaight: Thanks, [crosstalk 00:46:13] you too. Bye.

Rob Klein: Bye, now.

author

Angi Krueger is the Vice President of Marketing at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.

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Video Discussion: How to help patients now

On July 23, 2020, we conducted a discussion with Rob Klein, founder and CEO of Klein and Partners, and our Director of Insights and Strategy, Sue Spaight. The pair covered key highlights of the third wave of Rob's national study: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Healthcare Perceptions and Behaviors. This study, fielded in June 2020, provides valuable and immediately actionable insights to help healthcare marketing and communications professionals gain the confidence of their patients, bring them back into their systems for care and understand how to support caregivers during this difficult time.
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