Preparing For The ‘Contact-Free’ Point Of Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has created fundamental changes in how physicians are practicing medicine, and how patients and healthcare professionals are learning and consuming information.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created fundamental changes in how physicians are practicing medicine, and how patients and healthcare professionals are learning and consuming information. With live in-person sales rep interactions being forced online, medical conventions and conferences going virtual, and patient visits shifting to telemedicine, the virtual health industry is exhibiting striking growth. With telehealth being propelled forward, and rigorous safety protocols and social distancing measures in place for live in-office visits, the behaviors in the waiting room in the new normal are also going to be altered.

  • As offices reopen, to ensure compliance with the new social distancing guidelines, doctor visits are by appointment only, with no walk-ins allowed in many practices. Therefore, the wait times in offices are going to be non-existent or minimal, with visitors quickly escorted into the exam room.
  • With lower possibility of patients gathering in doctor offices, the waiting rooms may be completely eliminated over time or may exist with a reduced footprint.
  • The waiting room may also be shifting to outside the office – in patients’ cars, or a bench or standing area outside the office. Like in everyday life, people are most likely to spend this waiting time on their phones, opening up opportunities to ‘personally’ reach them on their devices.
  • The touch-resistant consumer behavior that has been enforced during the pandemic will manifest in hesitation among visitors to ‘touch’ any promotional materials in the waiting room.

 

The ongoing changes in the waiting and exam room procedures/logistics call into question the effectiveness of patient-directed promotional materials in the waiting rooms, namely print brochures and leave-behinds, as well as touch screens, interactive wallboards, coverwraps, and digital waiting room TV screens. Given the new challenge to create a contact-free experience, innovation will be key to reach the patient at this critical moment of truth for brand consideration and decision-making. Let’s take a look at a few tactics that can help unlock the full value of a point-of-care sponsorship program.

 

Create the “Wait From Wherever” Virtual Room

 

Given the new COVID-19 protocols for live visits and the increasing number of televisits, the waiting room is now virtual, often in the patient’s own living room or the car. If a CRM registrant informs the brand about their upcoming doctor’s appointment, there is an opportunity to create a virtually simulated waiting room experience that the patients can engage with at their leisure on their phones or laptops, days before their visit starts and after their doctor’s appointment is over.

It creates a window for longform digital content such as patient stories and educational video series, which are always a challenge on a physical waiting room monitor. This platform also allows for a more personalized and diversified set of promotional content – consumers can pick up a brochure, click on an ad to be immediately directed to a website, answer a symptom quiz and download a doctor discussion guide – the possibilities are endless for disease- and brand-specific communications.

Change Focus from the Waiting Room to ‘Own’ the Exam Room

 

While telemedicine is becoming preferred whenever appropriate, a physical consultation may be required in many cases–the annual physical, preventive screening, an elective procedure, or managing signs and symptoms of an emerging illness. Unless an office operates at six-sigma efficiency, a short wait period may be inevitable for all in-person appointments, though not in the “waiting room.” Given the precautionary steps being taken in all doctor’s offices, the “waiting” is more likely to happen in the exam room.

The exam room is always an opportunity to engage with the captive audience who is awaiting the nurse or the doctor to come in. So a promotional asset has a higher likelihood to get attention or even engagement in this environment. Given the monitored footprint in the exam rooms and more vigilant sanitization of the area after every use, visitors might be more open to engaging with promotional pieces like brochures or leave-behinds. The exam room also opens up new possibilities of “wall space” – imagine a takeover of the ceiling in an exam room in an OB-GYN office. Personally, I have never missed a single visit to my OB-GYN without looking at the ceiling.

Re-Think Interactivity To Be Touch Free

 

Engagement on an ad is a function of both the content as well as user experience. Interactivity has heightened the user experience of ads. However, the current “contact avoidance” environment will hinder engagement with a touch screen or a print piece in a doctor’s office. The length of the pandemic will result in new habits and behavior necessitating a new approach to drive interactivity.

While QR codes launched over a decade ago failed to take hold, a lot has changed since then—widespread adoption of smartphones, ubiquitous Wi-Fi access, as well as digital savviness of consumers, especially the older demographics, making QR codes a viable option worth exploring. Imagine big scannable QR codes on posters in the exam rooms that patients can access without having to leave the exam table—think scanning the QR code for the menu, on the restaurant wall while being seated at your table.

Old-school “text” to receive a link to the website or video is also a simple, still-relevant effective method to drive interactivity. SMS marketing combined with geofencing and media-rich capabilities can also drive high engagement with patients waiting “outside” the office premises. 

Re-Design “Contact-Free” Holders For Print Materials

 

A detailed communication is seldom achievable on a wallboard or a poster. A brochure not only allows long-form content but the ability for patients to take it with them ensures information is readily available when the user is ready to undertake more research on the disease, medication, or procedure. Most often brochures are also helpful tools for doctors to give to patients as a recap of their treatment discussion and provide ready access to details that patients may forget once they leave the doctor’s office.

Given the high utility of this print asset, it will be helpful to rethink the holders of these materials that minimize the users from touching the material to be taken by the next person or the worry of a touch being left behind by the person before them. An encouraging “You Take it with You” will be a gentle reminder of safety as users interact with the modified print holder. Shrink-wrapped print brochures that can be wiped down with sanitizing wipes can be a simple solve as well.

Leverage Promotional Assets On Telehealth

 

As virtual health applications increase in usage, it will be a great opportunity for marketers to leverage these platforms for promotional communications. Since these platforms may allow for more targeted communications based on the disease state, the relevance will be high for the patients who receive these promotions. A diabetic patient accessing the telehealth portal with their test results is more likely to value an ad of a diet plan or lifestyle management support. And a telehealth promotion can enable this level of targeting and precision, while ensuring compliance with HIPAA guidelines.

As marketers navigate the new normal for promotion at point of care, FCB Health can help brands win in the new and inventive contact-free economy.

Please contact your account leads or ross.quinn@fcb.com if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the above.