Opinion

How to recruit patients into an immunisation campaign

Rhian Bulmer

,

11.12.2020

How to recruit patients into an immunisation campaign

Since the UK has announced that the Pfizer vaccination has been approved for immediate use, all eyes are turning to primary care networks (PCNs) to see who will accept the enhanced service to deliver this programme. But how quickly and effectively the rollout will be? Or rather, how quickly we can return to some sort of normality?

Primary care networks are perfectly placed to roll out this kind of programme, after all they have decades of experience delivering large scale immunisation programmes, from childhood immunisations, to annual flu vaccination campaigns. 

What makes this programme different?

  • The volume at which the programme needs to be delivered
  • The speed at which the programme needs to be delivered
  • The diversity of location where immunisations will be delivered
  • The diversity of healthcare professionals administering the immunisation

In addition to the logistical nightmare that this provides for HCPs and patients alike, there’s also the myth busting aspect to consider that is the side effect of the sharing of ‘fake news’ about vaccinations. Suddenly, public health organisations and healthcare economies are faced with an exponentially larger public engagement communication campaign. 

In the week of the vaccine approval announcement, Google Trends data shows that the number of searches for ‘Pfizer vaccine side effects’ was up by 1300%. Users then went on to search thalidomide, narcolepsy, auto immune diseases and Bill Gates! Healthcare organisations can consider this insight to inform how they approach their immunisation campaigns.

Keeping what has worked before

Historically, immunisation campaigns have been relatively formulaic and smooth running, whereby primary care:  

  • Identifies their audience through government guidelines and local system searches
  • Schedules clinics, either walk-in or pre-booked slots. 
  • Invites patients to attend, usually by letter, email or text.
  • Sends reminder invitations by letter, email or text. 
  • Codes attendance or non-attendance on medical records.

Immunising a third of the UK population 

The potential issue with this large scale COVID-19 vaccination programme is the breadth of potential fractures and points of overload in the system as well as the added complexity of the immunisation being in two parts, with payment when both are administered. 

With around 25 million people in the UK over the age of 50, in effect this becomes an exercise in immunising over a third of the UK population. 

How to overcome the pressure points:

1. Identify your audience through government guidelines and local system searches

  • Older adults / residents in a care home and care home workers
  • All those 80 years of age (and over) and Health and Social
  • Care Workers
  • All those 75 years of age and over
  • All those 70 years of age and over
  • All those 65 years of age and over
  • High-risk adults under 65 years of age
  • Moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
  • All those 60 years of age and over
  • All those 55 years of age and over
  • All those 50 years of age and over

2. Schedule clinics, either walk-in or pre-booked slots 

  • Complexity or managing multi stakeholders across multiple locations
  • Potential for massive confusion and pressure to phone lines about where to attend
  • DNAs could be high with little margin available on £25 per patient to accommodate this.

3. Invite patients to attend, usually by letter, email or text

  • In today’s permission-based world, there is limited uptake of any services from ‘push’ techniques with emails unread, letters unopened and texts ignored or sent to the wrong number. 
  • There is also a significant risk of phone lines being flooded with enquiries. 

4. Send reminder invitations by letter, email or text. 

  • If someone does not respond to a communication the first time, it is advisable to change method 
  • Potential for practice telephone lines to be flooded with enquires stopping patients getting through who need medical attention

Imagine a third of a primary care network estate, all contacting a dedicated help line to enquire about the efficacy of the vaccine, rearrange appointments, book appointments and then potentially miss appointments.

Proactive communication and adding new tools to your arsenal

To offer help to our front-line services who have led the way in the fight against COVID-19, we’ve put together five top tips:

1. Identify your audience through government guidelines and local system searches and everywhere else.

Demographic profiling of your patients and truly understanding them will help provide key insights to ensure the activation tools you use are the most effective. 
Did you know that grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter?

2. Run local myth busting public health campaigns to reassure any concerns that different key demographics may have. For example, the concerns for pregnant women may be different to those of patients with COPD.

Did you know you can create targeted content on Facebook to reach different audience demographics?

3. Schedule clinics, either walk-in or pre-booked slots. 
Consider using online booking and promoting this with patients rather than clogging up your phone lines. Creating a dedicated enquiry from an app or via your website where patients can submit queries for you to respond to is a great way to be accessible, cost effective and boost efficiency.

4. Invite patients to attend by letter, email or text.
What other channels do you have available to communicate with your patients? Do they follow your Facebook page? 

Did you know you can send targeted messages on Facebook to key demographics within a geographical radius?  Learn more in the
Digital Marketing Guide.

5. Send reminder invitations by letter, email or text.
Patients might not respond to your first attempt to offer them an immunisation for a multitude of reasons. To boost engagement, try reaching across multiple channels like email or text. These methods could be more convenient, and also make it easier to track responses. Being able to track responses in this way means that you have a centralised database of attendance information that you can consult at a later date.


What’s your next step in your patient acquisition strategy? 


The public’s attention has already been piqued, and now is the prime-time engagement. Yes, there are some hesitation, questions and concerns, but audiences are engaged and at a stage where they’re actively looking for guidance and information. Using digital channels to find, invite, activate, and ensure appointment adherence can be more intuitive than ever. 

We are BBI Health, a dedicated team of strategists, analysts, creatives and marketing specialists that are experienced in helping healthcare organisations to achieve their goals. Take a look at our client case studies to learn more about how we’ve helped leading healthcare organisations or contact us to discuss your project requirements – we'd love to help.


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