At present, there is no voice over the emerging coronavirus; that appeared in China in late 2019 and the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020 – after it infected hundreds of thousands and caused thousands of deaths in more than 114 countries around the world. Since then, the world has transformed to a great extent, and certainly, the healthcare sector had the largest share in this change, whether at the practice level or the marketing level. If you are the owner of a medical center/clinic or a medical marketing official in a major hospital, then you should consider adjusting your marketing activities during the COVID-19 outbreak or any global crisis that might emerge.

The medical marketing sector may be ready to deal with the coronavirus crisis, as marketing officials need to think about the implications of its impact on the health sector and reconsider their medical marketing strategies – on social media pages and websites – and how to use them during any health crisis. The question that preoccupies many medical centers and clinics is “How do we change our efforts in medical marketing and our marketing budgets during the coronavirus pandemic?”

Here are some guidelines that will help you answer this question, but let’s clarify first that when we talk about marketing we do not think about mere advertising, but all marketing activities from a website, social media, and the promotional videos that you provide.

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    In this article, medical marketing experts in Upper Medic discuss how clinics and doctors can modify their marketing activities in response to the current outbreak or any emerging crises.

    How has the health sector changed in light of the coronavirus outbreak?

    Initially, hospital managers, medical centers, and clinic owners must first decide whether to continue providing medical and treatment services during the COVID-19 crisis; knowing that this decision will differ depending on the specialties and services provided by the institution. Some specialties that focus on serious illnesses must remain open and operate normally, while some optional medical practices require partial or total closure during the crisis.

    Authorities in some countries have asked healthcare providers to postpone some medical procedures and some optional dental services to avoid running out of urgent medical supplies and personal protective equipment and help reduce exposure to and spread of the virus. It is reported that these rules did not only affect the medical sector, as schools and universities have been suspended, and many events were canceled and suspended until further notice or the end of the pandemic.

    How is the healthcare marketing sector adapting during the coronavirus crisis?

    All forms of digital medical marketing were affected by COVID-19, and the field witnessed some changes, such as:

    1. Websites: Some clinics, medical centers, and hospitals have posted updated coronavirus notifications on their website, and are providing the public with advice on how to protect themselves and cope during the crisis.
    1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): In general, SEO investments are long-term investments that must continue. We recommend that (some of) our clients terminate their traditional ads temporarily and use the effort to invest in SEO.
    1. Reputation Management: Reputation management software and social media management will have a vital role in maintaining and enhancing your reputation and dealing with negative reviews.
    1. Paid Marketing on Search Engines (such as Google Ads): Hospitals and all medical centers should run sponsored search engine campaigns, and continue these efforts despite today’s decreased demand, but you will only be charged when people click on your link looking for your services.
    1. Social media: Due to the total lockdown made by the authorities to limit the spread of COVID-19, many current and potential patients are staying at home for a long period, and they will spend more time searching for answers to their health problems. You have to make sure that the content you’re posting is useful and relevant to the new day’s realities.
    1. Beyond online advertising, traditional, offline advertising such as leaflets in the clinic may be useful to educate the public and promote the brand.
    1. Creating and upgrading your services to facilitate the process to patients and reduce the risk of infection. For example, some physicians are conducting remote consultations and following-up with cases on the phone or through video calls – which is known as online medicine or telemedicine.

    What does medical social media marketing look like during the coronavirus crisis?

    In the following points, medical marketing experts from Upper Medic will share some tips that doctors, hospitals, and healthcare marketers can use for their social media pages during COVID-19.

    1. The priority is to use social media as a platform to persuade people to comply with health authorities’ instructions and thus help reduce the incidence of infections – so our health systems aren’t overwhelmed (Flatten the curve). A prominent feature on social media is that you can access different segments and age groups to raise awareness about the risks of COVID-19 and how to prevent it. This could be done through several methods that grab the public’s attention so they can understand the magnitude of the outbreak and respond responsibly.
    1. Use social media to educate the public on the symptoms, method of transmission of the virus, and how to avoid being infected – as there are many misleading sources and they need to be guided correctly. You can be their trustworthy source of information and answer questions such as: What are the symptoms? When do I go to the hospital? What are the chances of disease transmission to those around me? Bearing in mind that your information must be medically accurate and from reliable sources such as the WHO website (who.int).
    1. Use social media pages to inform the public about all the safety and precautionary methods, and sterilization is done in your clinic or medical institution.

    What should medical marketing officials consider during the coronavirus crisis?

    Realise that this situation is temporary

    Medical marketing officials in clinics and hospitals must realize that all of this will pass, no one knows what will happen in the future, but it will still pass. Focus on the long run and do not neglect new growth opportunities, and ignore the new opportunities that may emerge amid the crisis.

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      Here are some tips that Chris Stevenson (PHD Regional Head of Planning) provides to all digital marketing professionals:

      “Be ready for the recovery phase while preparing to launch campaigns that reflect optimism and preparing promotional offers to increase sales with an understanding that the purpose of this stage is not only to survive but to flourish through change.”

      Seize the opportunities

      This situation is new for everyone since many companies decided to work from home, the audience spends their time at home more than ever, and we will see a new type of online behavior as consumers will spend longer durations online.

      Exploit the current time

      Since many medical institutions are reducing their marketing budget, we will likely see a sharp decrease in cost prices, for example, the cost of one thousand impressions in search engines and the cost of one click will decrease due to lower competition, so this is an ideal opportunity in medical marketing to acquire new customers at a lower cost than before.

      Adapt to the audience’s new behaviours

      For a hospital or clinic, being online wasn’t a necessity like today. Identify your target audience, how your lifestyle has changed, and how you should approach them. Think about your audience’s current situation? What do they want to watch? How should you contact them? Do not underestimate the impact of coronavirus on the public and how it has affected their demands.

      In the end, there is no doubt that the coronavirus has left its mark in history, but we don’t know to what extent will life be different after it ends. Now, we can see its effect on various industries, but how will medical marketers adapt to that? Will more digital solutions be considered, such as live broadcasts or webinars? And detection and follow-up through video calls and other advanced solutions are offered due to the social distancing measure, even in these times, there can be many opportunities that can be seized.