As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep countries around the world under lockdown, there is an increased focus on the health sector, from the brave frontline health workers and critical researchers to biopharmaceutical companies and academic institutions racing to find a treatment and vaccine. The pandemic has highlighted, albeit in a painful manner, the critical role of these healthcare professionals in ensuring a healthy, productive society, the continued need for innovation and access to essential health services.
According to a recent APCO Insight survey, more than 75 percent of Americans were satisfied with the crisis response by hospitals, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies, among others. However, with uncertainties looming around what the “new normal” will be in the post-pandemic era, there is one undeniable certainty: the pandemic has, and will, fundamentally change the health industry and how healthcare companies run their businesses forever. Our new normal will bring new challenges, and along with them, new opportunities and responsibilities.
Communicating Will Change Forever
The health industry will have to adjust to a new health eco system and find ways to become more agile with everything going virtual that will have an impact on traditional ways of communications. Sales reps currently aren’t able to go out in the field so it will beg the question if this type of interaction will be needed in the future. Making everything virtual will require innovative ways to engage customers. For example, engaging video content of medical devices or a simpler way to show a therapies mechanism of action will become the norm, while also instituting online trainings and more webinars.
How companies communicate directly with patients and consumers will also change. While the data isn’t yet sufficient to conclude, direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements may be scrutinized more closely in the post-pandemic era. Materials such as waiting room brochures and information packets must be adapted to the new virtual environment, and companies must consider new innovative ways to clearly convey evidence-based health information online. To avoid unnecessary congestion in service, companies will also need to help customers and patients understand the difference between what is deemed essential and non-essential by healthcare companies—more on this in a moment.
Renewed Focus on Public Health and Self-Care
In the era following this public health crisis—with healthcare systems stretched thin, and battle wounds of the pandemic still fresh in communities—there will be a renewed emphasis on public health and self-care. Public health prevention measures that we have taken for granted, such as vaccines, will—or at least should—be viewed as being a critical element of long-term public health and wellbeing.
As hospitals remain overburdened, with many cancelling non-essential procedures, the importance of self-care will increase, and more people will question what should be considered as essential. Companies in the self-care space will have an opportunity to fill this gap with over the counter medicines, as well as an obligation to educate current and potential consumers of measures they can take to stay well.
While there is still a lot of uncertainty, it is clear that the health industry has an opportunity, as well as a responsibility to come to the table and problem solve.
APCO alumna Alex Lazorchak contributed to this post.