Healthcare Communications Solutions in the COVID-19 Landscape

There is no modern-day precedent to inform how organizations should respond to the impact of COVID-19. From the federal government to local hospitals and clinics, we’re all writing the playbook as we go.

After a few months of intense work for our healthcare clients, we have some solid COVID-19 communications experience to draw from. We hope the following marketing and public relations examples highlight solutions to a diverse set of COVID-related communications challenges.

Washington Health Benefit Exchange (WAHBE)

Challenge: Quinn Thomas conducted survey research with DHM Research in early April and found 24 percent of Washingtonians reported job loss in their household due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Our later research showed a third of those who lost their job also lost their health insurance. While that may seem like a small percentage, in reality it’s a large number of residents. And it has a profound impact on the healthcare of those individuals and their families. Something needed to happen to let the newly unemployed know about the options to replace their health insurance.

Approach: Quinn Thomas worked with the WAHBE team to plan and field a marketing campaign aimed at Washingtonians lacking health insurance due to COVID-19. The campaign ran during the special insurance enrollment period from April 13th through May 8th. With more people at home consuming online content, online advertising is more efficient and effective than ever. This campaign doubled the number of new health insurance enrollees when compared with the previous year.

#Insight: Many advertisers had left the market and we saw a record low cost-per-click on digital pre-roll, which also led to the greatest number of pages visited per session. We had tremendous success with stories on Facebook and Instagram, which delivered a lower cost per completed video than in-feed Facebook and Instagram.

Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems

Challenge: Quinn Thomas and DHM conducted survey research in mid-May that revealed 33 percent of Oregonians would be either unwilling or apprehensive to seek care in a hospital emergency room due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. As hospitals were allowed to open and begin seeing non-COVID patients, this apprehension threatened to even further damage hospital financial footing. We needed to maximize OAHHS’ reach while also driving traffic to the OAHHS website where people can learn more about continuing their care.

Approach: Quinn Thomas planned and fielded a marketing campaign designed to build awareness about the safety of hospitals and the need for patients to continue their care. The campaign, Your Care Continues, ran from June 3rd through June 30th targeted to Oregonians age 25 and over. Social media saw tremendous traffic because of the increase in people at home, spending more time online. Advertising significantly over-performed estimates. We were able to deliver clicks at more than three times the national average.

#Insight: With social advertising performing at all-time highs, our click through rate for English ads on Facebook was 54 percent above the national average. Spanish ads were 283 percent above. This resulted in nearly 700,000 bonus impressions. The click through rate on Twitter was 6.7 times the estimated amount. Facebook and Twitter were responsible for 85 percent of our digital clicks.

CHI Franciscan

Challenge: CHI Franciscan, Washington’s premier health system with eight acute care hospitals and 200+ clinics, was at the forefront of COVID-19 care and needed to share critical updates and information with the community.

Approach: Quinn Thomas worked with CHI to drive two overarching key messages: 1) the system is prepared to address COVID-19 and 2) its facilities are safe. Over the course of March and April, the team produced and published a weekly community update with the latest information and guidance. We told stories about how the system was addressing COVID-19 and highlighted the ways healthcare workers and patients maintained safety during extraordinary times. A few examples:

Seattle Times Go inside the nerve center of a Western Washington hospital system dealing with coronavirus

KOMO TV Walk-in coronavirus testing welcome at local healthcare facility

Tacoma News Tribune CHI-Franciscan saw more than 1,300 people in one day at COVID-19 triage centers

#Insight: CHI Franciscan appeared in or drove nearly 100 local and national stories during the first months of the pandemic. Triaging media requests and cutting through the noise with critical health and safety information was paramount. Providing weekly community updates on the website, sharing information proactively with a regular cadence, and engaging in meaningful storytelling and announcements helped ensure the right information made it to those who needed it.

SCCA Proton Therapy

Challenge: COVID-19 doesn’t mean cancer can go untreated – that was the message SCCA Proton Therapy Center needed to share with patients in their five-state service area.

Approach: Quinn Thomas partnered with SCCA Proton Therapy Center to help patients and their providers share their stories of treatment, care, and survival. Most healthcare coverage at the height of the pandemic in Washington was rightfully devoted to COVID-19. We did not want to interrupt the important news and conversations but, at the same time, needed to inform patients and prospective patients not to delay cancer treatment and screening. We worked with reporters interested in sharing healthcare stories that were important to tell during the height of the pandemic but weren’t pandemic-specific. A few examples:

Anchorage Press After two battles with breast cancer, Anchorage judge had to fight in court to get more precise and less destructive form of radiation treatment

The Daily What photographing death and a brain cancer diagnosis taught graduate student Caroline Catlin

#Insight: In the ongoing new cycle focused on COVID-19, we sought out hyper-local publications with a direct geographic connection to the patient in their community. This helped us land coverage in a saturated news environment.