Keeping an Eye on Healthcare Behaviors During the Crisis

April 28, 2020, by , in Blog, no comments

We’ve conducted several weeks of healthcare research within multiple states across the country, so we thought we’d share some thoughts around what we’re seeing and what you really, really need to be watching for in the nuance of all of this. And there certainly is nuance. Our research (qualitative online behavior – “digital ethnography”) is picking up the following interesting trends as a small sample of what we’re seeing:

  • The “Pause” of Consumerism in Healthcare: One interesting aspect of revering healthcare workers is seeing that also carry over to the healthcare brands who are being seen less as profit centers and more as important community leaders and paragons of action. In some areas we’re not seeing the comparative behavior around competitors, but more of a singular view without the cynicism of just months ago. How long this muting or pausing of consumerism lasts will be interesting to watch, but it’s a VERY different messaging space to not be competing so hard on amenities when people see you all in the same halo glow.
  • The Double Edged Sword of Leadership: Being a leader in handling this virus could result in fear of you as a physical site when more regular outpatient visits ramp up. While we aren’t seeing this expressed just yet by target audiences, we are seeing competitors (particularly for-profit) taking advantage of this in ads and could start seeding the idea.
  • Your State’s Context Sets the Tone: We have always said, “Geography is Fate” and that still rings incredibly true even in a worldwide crisis. We’ve seen stark differences in tone towards leadership on all levels, but it’s important to note how each context affects the healthcare entities within those regions. In some cases we’ve seen discussion pull focus away from healthcare leaders – and not in a good way; others may mean increased scrutiny against the state’s backdrop.

One to watch that we haven’t seen yet en masse, but could rise given other political climates:

  • When Expertise Becomes a Liability: If expertise is demonized in the medical field the way it is in Earth science, there are going to be some difficult repercussions (those who know me know I have a particular bone to pick here that I can talk about later – my father is an accomplished NASA earth scientist whose landmark work was seen as bipartisan during the ozone hole crisis, but now would be seen as partisan with how scientists who study our environment can be demonized in some circles). The “second opinion” is already fueled by patient chatter, but what if for some it becomes the source of the opinion? Or any innovative stance by a system is questioned openly even on the most casual social posts? This would be a dangerous cynicism to replace any “pausing” of consumerism with, and we’re hopeful it won’t come but bears listening for. We’ve seen great work by partners like Rob Klein of Klein and Partners smartly tracking how politics and healthcare behavior are inter-twining in surveys.

All of these are changing week-to-week and differ based on region, demographics, and more. Listening to what YOUR audiences specifically are saying and doing is key. Right now for most systems we’re doing weekly dives into how their consumers are talking about healthcare, what misinformation lurks, attitudes toward facilities and systems including competitors, and big trend and threat lines therein. In addition we’re looking at changing nurse and physician attitudes, and finding it can be wildly different between systems as well. These shifts in perception and nuances in behavior are knowable right now – in your region, in your state, and in the country at large.

We’re in for a heck of a ride with this behavior. Watching the waves will become increasingly important so you can ride them and not get dragged under as you try to come back to shore.

– Dean Browell, PhD

If you’re interested in how Feedback can help, reach out and we can customize a discreet plan and approach that works for you. Let us show you how we can help – contact Dean @