A Physician's Perspective on How Combating the Pandemic Has Evolved
What You and Your Team Can Do to Help
Jan 25, 2022 | Hospital Solutions
Every stage of the pandemic has brought us something new. Healthcare organizations have learned how to tackle each wave to the best of their ability while much of the world continues to be hit left and right with unknown variables. When we were initially introduced to COVID, hospitals were tasked with helping educate the public, treating masses of new patients, all while ensuring their physicians could stay focused. The healthcare industry, including marketers, banded together as one to help in any way possible. Two years later, hospitals are facing a new surge of cases. This time, physicians, and subsequently healthcare marketers, need to tackle COVID a bit differently. We spoke with Doximity’s Medical Director and SVP of Strategy, Dr. Amit Phull, to learn more about his experience as an Emergency Medicine Physician at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
With new cases often topping 1M+ each day, many physicians are once again inundated with patients. This time, however, from Dr. Phull's perspective, there's less frustration around the pure volume and more due to the fact that the ground they're standing on often feels as if it is constantly shifting. Recommendations and guidelines are continually changing, and physicians are dealing with shrapnel from other issues. While certainly not at the same level of urgency, many healthcare marketers can likely relate. With every change the pandemic brings, teams must stay nimble and turn around new collateral and campaigns quickly. Is all of your collateral up-to-date? How are you helping promote elective procedures for your physicians?
Patient volume is made worse by 'second-order' problems, namely the discussions, and occasionally the decision making, around COVID have become increasingly complex. When it comes to differentiating between variants, there's usually no way for doctors to know what specific strain patients have and, due to the varied impact of each variant, doctors can be left guessing at treatment. (For example, Omicron rendered a few monoclonal antibody treatments less effective). On a positive note, there appears to be a significant decoupling between the number of cases in this wave and the severity of disease. This being said, the 'area under the curve' if you will, can still cause significant strain on the system - while individual patients may, on the whole, be less severely ill, the sheer volume of them can still be overwhelming and tip the scales when it comes to things like hospital capacity, physicians being stretched thin, etc. On top of active, positive cases, hospitals are often inundated by the 'worried well' overcompensating and taking too many tests. Many may have thought that we were in the clear and are frustrated with the resurgence and subsequent return to a restricted lifestyle. People itching to attend baseball games and concerts, see family, and dine in at restaurants are taking more and more tests in an attempt to both follow new guidelines and regain normalcy.
The important question is, how can healthcare marketers help physicians with this climate?
In terms of communication, a united front is crucial. The recommendations shift so rapidly and there seems to be great variation depending on the source. Healthcare marketing and communication teams are charged with keeping their messaging incredibly consistent and sharing the latest updates across all channels, including both internal communications with physicians and staff as well as external communications across social media, any digital campaigns, website content, and more. Ensuring everyone is on the same page results in better patient care.
Staffing continues to be a big concern. Teams are stretched thin and with more healthcare providers than not identifying as “burned out,” we must continue to encourage our teams to band together. Marketing teams have both the gift and responsibility to share the powerful work of our healthcare providers and encourage them to continue fighting. Some days it feels like it may never end but the impact of storytelling about the pivotal moments of care on the front lines may be just what someone needs to hear.