An ongoing longitudinal study of public attitudes (and experiences) of healthcare in the age of Covid19 is being done by Rob Klein of Klein and Partners, a Healthcare research and marketing consulting firm based in Chicago. Surveys were taken in April, and May, and in Mid-June (so far), Klein reports on the trends he sees – what has been changing and what has remained fairly constant, and the implications on what steps doctors need to take to insure the recovery of their practices.
• Behaviors During and After the Coronavirus
• How do we get patients back?
• Perceptions of How Healthcare Organizations are Handling the Coronavirus
• Emotions and Level of Concern
Key Takeaways (the short version):
• Mental Health issues are the ones for which patients feel the most immediate need to resume healthcare.
• Access is improving, but getting appointments sooner, rather than later is key, even if it means extending hours. Virtual visits are a good solution, but it must be easy and everyone’s attitude is important.
• Emotional stresses due to health and financial concerns, extended over months, means we expect to be left with a serious mental health crisis even after the pandemic is over.
• Physicians must be proactive. Patients are looking to have physicians ‘guide’ them back into accessing healthcare. Whether virtual visits or office visits, it is up to the practice to help the patients feel comfortable with the new procedures. Communications should be “verbal to help with their anxiety, written to provide instruction on how to come back safely.”
• Popularity of virtual care continues to grow. Objections on grounds of quality, privacy, impersonal nature or technology fade as patients experience it. Virtual visits need to be positioned as a long term solution to access.
• “Consumers want us to: 1) Acknowledge their concerns as real (empathy) and 2) Explain what we are doing to help them come back safely and easily (access). ‘How’ you act is what will make ‘what’ you do successful over the long-term Empathic Access.”
The 2020 Wave III Report (Waves I & II), in presentation form with lots of detailed charts, may be found here: COVID-19 STUDIES. Remember, this last snapshot was before the massive spike in infected individuals in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, so these sentiments may again be shifting.
Key takeaways (the long version – directly from Klein’s powerpoint):
1) While negative emotions continue to ease, hesitation is creeping back into people’s minds about getting back out and participating in most activities. This is not a linear path back to ‘normal.’
• Consistent with prior waves, those 18-44 and women express significantly higher levels of negative emotions such as anxiety. In fact, anxiety is the negative emotion expressed most among Americans. This may be why most medical conditions for which people feel an immediate need for care are mental health-related. And, six in ten adults report having a medical condition requiring immediate medical care. How are we preparing?
– What are 18-44 year olds most concerned about? safety and finances
– Clinicians also express significantly higher levels of anxiety, fear, anger, and loneliness. How are we helping our front line staff with mental health?
• And, a few concerns are back on the increase – emotional well-being, managing other health conditions, and spiritual health.
2) Access is improving. Importantly – “Time is the new currency.” Patients will switch (or stay) for access – and access includes attitude (e.g., if you accommodate a patient with a virtual appointment but make it a hassle or have a bad attitude, you lose all those brownie points!).
3) While the Coronavirus will eventually go away (whether naturally or through a vaccine), we will be left with a serious mental health crisis.
• Nearly one in ten (8%) of Americans have had a mental health therapy session cancelled due to the Coronavirus (and that assumes they were already partaking in these sessions; what about the need for new sessions?). Four in ten of these people with a cancelled therapy session have not rescheduled yet. How can we more proactively reach out to those in need of mental health services?
4) Physician offices must continue to be proactive in offering ‘solutions’ to getting patients back in. More and more patients are looking to their physicians to ‘guide’ them back in.
• I’ve said for years that physicians are the ‘5th P in the 4-Ps of Marketing’ – Personal Selling – well that is more true than ever before. Physicians are the face and voice of your brand and critical to bringing patients back in. How can you work with/through physicians to coordinate communication and access for patients?
5) And virtual care continues to grow in popularity as a key access point. Most patients who have tried a virtual visit learned about it from their doctor’s office. Those who have not tried virtual care yet have objections around quality, privacy, impersonality, technology in general, or simply not knowing enough about it. Think about when banks first introduced ATMs back in the 80s… now we can’t imagine a world without them. The point is that people have been ‘forced’ in to trying virtual care and after the effects of the Coronavirus wear off, the ‘value-proposition’ of easy, convenient, quality care must remain.
6) There remains positive momentum for providers as we move towards the new normal. How we treat patients now will dictate our brand position on the other side momentum or headwinds.
• However, health insurers do not appear to be setting themselves up for a positive exit from this pandemic with consumers.
7) Talk with patients to calm their anxieties; email or text (i.e., written form) them to explain what you are doing and what they need to do to come in.
8) Final Thought: Consumers are tired of the “we’re in this together” messaging BS. It’s become an intransitive verb – no action! Consumers want us to: 1) Acknowledge their concerns as real (empathy) and 2) Explain what we are doing to help them come back safely and easily (access). ‘How’ you act is what will make ‘what’ you do successful over the long-term Empathic Access.