Cash or card?

This year ushered in the unexpected fast-tracking of a contactless world, and we humans are doing what we do best: adapting. 

We’re adapting to the comeback of QR codes with restaurant menus; to contactless soda machines; to contactless options for in-store shopping, pickup and delivery (Sam’s club rolled out concierge shopping to 600 stores in only six days from ideation). We’re adapting to a cashless economy as we worry about the harsh reality of paper money and coins carrying more germs than a household toilet — not to mention that it costs more than a penny to make a penny.  

In fact, 77% of consumers expect to increase their use of touchless technologies to avoid interactions that require physical contact, marking a massive shift in both behaviors and expectations across every sector. So how can we make sure our brands live up to consumer expectations amid the rapid adoption of contactless healthcare? 

Healthcare in a Contactless World

Healthcare sits at the epicenter of 2020, making the increased need for healthcare information and quality patient care more precious than ever. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the industry is adopting technologies that will have a lasting impact:

  • The CDC launched the “Coronavirus Self-Checker,” a triage tool that uses Microsoft technology and an AI-powered chatbot named Clara that asks a series of questions to assess users’ risk of having contracted COVID-19.
  • Nuro robots, called R2, are delivering food, fresh linens and PPE from a supply depot to a field hospital in Sacramento, CA and food from an off-site kitchen to quarantine patients in San Francisco.
  • Apple and Google jointly developed an interoperable API, allowing governments and health agencies to track the spread of COVID-19 using Bluetooth technology.
  • Salesforce partnered with New York City to build a city-wide contact tracing program.
  • Mayo Clinic developed its own electronic system that combines medical records, non-clinical data and contact tracing resources to identify employee exposures within an average of two hours of a confirmed case.

In this digital age, there’s no excuse to continue relying on paper and people for certain things. We can implement text and in-app reminders, utilize beacon technology to check-in patients, 3D print PPE and collect vitals with wearable devices. As outdated processes are spurred forward by pandemic preparedness, one thing is more important now than ever before – communications. 

On The Steps of a Digital Front Door

During the era of social distancing, consumers are hyper aware of how valuable the digital experience is. Through digital experiences and the accelerated adoption of contactless technology, which will likely become a permanent norm, the reputations of hospitals and health systems lie on the steps of a “digital front door.” This “digital front door” extends beyond a website to include mobile apps, google business listings, patient portals, telehealth platforms, geolocation and machine learning/AI technology. This upsurge in digital transformation leaves healthcare asking, “how do you communicate value in digital experiences?”

Your brand experience starts with the digital experience. From a Google search to a telemedicine appointment, the patient experience no longer begins when someone enters the four walls of your facility. Marketers are rapidly shifting their mentality and leveraging a mix of digital touchpoints, including patient portals, mobile websites, wearables, chatbots and voice assistants to intentionally create, manage and provide value through these varied experiences. 

Tip #1: Map your digital touchpoints 

  • Revisit the entire customer journey starting at the “digital front door” to identify areas where digital touchpoints lack consistency or clear messaging. After you’ve determined where to adjust digital touchpoints, create a marketing roadmap that prioritizes building trust in the patient-provider relationship.  

Tip #2: Audit your brand through the digital lens

  • On the average web page, users have time to read, at most, 28% of the words during an average visit; however, 20% is the more likely estimate. Companies are increasingly redesigning their visual identities for longevity in the digital world. Recent rebrands include Nissan and Bojangles, revealing new 2D logos for better readability in digital formats, especially on smaller mobile screens. In the advent of digital touchpoints, a brand audit through a digital lens ensures customers experience a consistent, standout brand both online and off. 

Tip #3: Get creative with new digital touchpoints

  • Look to accelerate digital-first behaviors in unique ways such as deploying waitlist apps (like TablesReady) to text patients when their provider is ready or, via IP targeting, deliver messages on new safety measures, new policies, etc. while they browse the internet in waiting rooms. El Toro repurposed its ad IP targeting software for COVID-19 contact tracing. Innovative touchpoints leave a lasting impression on consumers, prompting a positive reaction to the larger story you’re trying to tell.

Tip #4: Communicate how to use technology

  • A report published by the Global Wellness Institute reports what we’re all feeling: “On a sheer biological level, we cannot possibly adapt quickly enough to the pace of change we are seeing in the world. The problem with technology is not that it’s bad, it’s that it’s too good.” Communicating with patients about how to use digital touchpoints is a critical task for marketers. While a growing number of consumers are native to technology, there still are plenty of people for whom it’s anything but. Digital interactions should deploy with clear instructions for every consumer, no matter their level of technological savvy. Marketing should partner with IT in developing chatbots, telehealth portals, etc. to edit copy and broaden instructions to accommodate diverse audiences. A frustrating experience due to clear directions or even bad grammar with a chatbot can start to erode your brand trust. 

Tip #5: Messaging matters

  • As our world changes, consumer needs and pain points have changed, too. While existing marketing playbooks do not account for such unparalleled times, nothing builds trust better than a cadenced flow of clear messaging. Audiences consume messaging, syntax and tone in different ways. Digital touchpoints should have best practices and guidelines for messaging, tone and structure to mirror the type of interaction or device where it’s delivered.

Tip #6: Leverage multiple communication channels 

  • Healthcare organizations no longer rely on a static dot-com or an unread email to connect with patients. Digital experiences need to support and alert customers in unique circumstances across multiple channels including text (check out what these guys are doing), voice assistants, chatbots and patient portals. Although managing communications across multi-channel touchpoints seems daunting, healthcare organizations can drive high-quality care through strategic communications across digital touchpoints at the right time and place. 

Through these various touchpoints, there are countless opportunities to build trust through the digital experience and leverage emerging technology. The marketing opportunity is to inject trust into existing utility-driven processes. This is a fortuitous relationship for marketers, as technology can be used to elevate the patient experience. 

For patients seeking care between quarantine computer screens and in-person waiting rooms, the right marketing message can be the differentiator in a patient deciding to adopt telehealth rather than forego an appointment. Marketing and communications need a seat at the table to help design and deliver valuable digital experiences across the care continuum.

Innovation’s Right Hand

If global pandemics have a silver lining, it’s that we have a rare opportunity to reimagine our healthcare processes and how we communicate. Living in a contactless world doesn’t mean losing contact. 

In fact, if we do our jobs right, we can actually use the introduction of contactless technologies to create connections, to each other, our organizations and our brands. The introduction of so many news ways of doing just about everything calls for even more and better communication than ever. By innovating simple ways for patients to engage with contactless healthcare processes and supporting those points of engagement with simple messages and/or instructions, we can build the kind of confidence, trust and loyalty that keeps consumers coming back… and helps them have grace amid our inevitable imperfections. 

By adapting to a contactless world so quickly in this moment of need, we need new ways of thinking to guarantee brands meet (and exceed) evolving consumer expectations. When the pandemic ends, we hope marketing will sit right hand to innovation.

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