Resumption of confidence. How do we communicate that we are still safe?  

Since the first case was officially registered in Brazil about 100 days ago, the new coronavirus has already caused more than 35,000 deaths and has left a harsh legacy in the financial sustainability of private hospitals, clinics, offices and health professionals who depend on the demand for consultations and surgeries. 

In these providers, the patient without symptoms of COVID disappeared, even considering the chronic ones who needed to continue their treatments. Between the first and the second two months of 2020, the drop in hospitalizations in member hospitals of the Associação Nacional de Hospitais Privados (Anaph) was 25%, according to data from Observatory 2020. 1 There was also a drop in hospitalizations related to neoplasms (23%), circulatory system diseases (21%) and nervous system diseases (27%).

Corroborating these data, São Luiz Morumbi, a highly complex hospital in São Paulo, presented its numbers during the pandemic: reduction of 84.48% in the emergency surgical movement, 62.3% in general surgery and 44.1% in the number of hospitalizations.2

At the risk of having health service providers closing their doors due to the total inability to finance their operations and, above all, under the damage of creating a liability for untreated patients in time, we need to get the patient to go back to his doctor, clinic or hospital when you need care.

Good communication practices will help to overcome this challenge, restoring confidence in the quality and safety of healthcare environments.

Inside out

Whoever is on the front line is the most obvious spokesperson for any communication with the outside public. Therefore, the first step in restoring confidence is to demonstrate to employees that the environment in which they work is safe and that they can trust their leadership.

A survey organized by the Núcleo de Estudos da Burocracia (NEB FGV-EAESP) warns of the distance that some institutions may be from this objective: of the 1,456 health professionals interviewed, just over half (55.56%) said they had received guidance from their leaders on how to act during the pandemic, and 71.82% say they do not feel support from their superiors to face the crisis.3

Form multipliers

Referral physicians have always been the link between the patient and the private health institution, and the stronger the relationship they have with their clients, the more influence they will have on a patient’s decision to postpone tests and treatments.

Thus, exhaustively demonstrating to medical staff, external and surgeons what the hospital has been doing to structure the flows in COVID and “non-COVID” is essential to consolidate the message that it is prepared to continue operating safely even during the pandemic.

There is much work to be done in this regard, and many doctors are afraid to resume their activities. A survey by APM – Associação Paulista de Medicina, carried out between 9 and 17 April with 2,312 doctors from public and private services, found that for 76.6% the environment in which they work is of apprehension – masks and tests are missing for everyone . Only 7.5% of these professionals say they have already been tested for SARS-CoV-2.4

Go to the field

After fulfilling the two previous recommendations, it is time to explain to the public the strategies for receiving “non-COVID” cases safely. The strategic use of the social network and advertising campaigns can help to spread the message faster. Integrated press relations and public relations efforts should be considered.

Continued action

The reputation that the brand of a service has earned over time is what will determine the credibility of the message you want to convey. Consequently, the effort required to regain the confidence of the patient and the external doctor will be proportional to how much was already being invested before the pandemic in relationship, communication and marketing actions.

If in the past these three actions were mistakenly neglected or considered “supportive”, today they are essential for the return to normal services.

Irreversibly, communication finally takes its place among the critical success factors of business in the healthcare market as well. A positive recognition that is here to stay.

References:

  1. ASSOCIAÇÃO NACIONAL DE HOSPITAIS PRIVADOS. Observatório 2020. São Paulo: Anahp, 2020. Disponível em: https://conteudo.anahp.com.br/observatorio-2020. Acesso em: 19 maio 2020.
  2. HOSPITAL SÃO LUIZ MORUMBI (org.). Cirurgias eletivas e coronavírus: o que devemos saber? Facebook: @cmanestesia. Disponível em: https://www.facebook.com/cmanestesia/videos/700871960714301/. Acesso em: 30 maio 2020.
  3. NÚCLEO DE ESTUDOS DA BUROCRACIA (São Paulo). Eaesp (org.). A pandemia de Covid-19 e os profissionais de saúde pública no Brasil. São Paulo: Fgv, 2020. 16 p.
  4. ASSOCIAÇÃO PAULISTA DE MEDICINA. Os médicos e a pandemia do novo coronavírus (COVID-19). São Paulo: APM, 2020. Disponível em: http://associacaopaulistamedicina.org.br/files/2020/pesquisa-apm-medicos-covid-19-abr2020.pdf. Acesso em: 6 jun. 2020.

Gilmara Espino

Specialist in health marketing. Managing Partner of GPeS Health Branding and Business

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