How Healthcare Organizations Can Answer Important Questions About COVID Vaccines

Over the course of the last eight months, we have seen how rapidly the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way people search.

Carrie Liken

By Carrie Liken

Dec 2, 2020

4 min

Over the course of the last eight months, we have seen how rapidly the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way people search. At first, people needed answers about COVID safety protocols or doctor availability. Now, with the news of COVID vaccine efficacy — and multiple contenders applying for FDA approval — searches for answers about everything related to vaccines is on the rise.

As a result, we've seen thousands of vaccine searches on both Google and on healthcare organization websites seeking out the key three Ws: when is it available, who gets it, and where can it be accessed. This is important information for the healthcare industry writ large, who can use their position to drive authoritative answers about the COVID vaccines — so that they become the primary destination for accurate medical information rather than letting Google dictate what the public reads and hears (which is often a lot of ads).

In order to help healthcare organizations put their best foot forward, we asked Ahava Leibtag of Aha Media Group, a consultancy specializing in digital strategy for healthcare organizations, to provide some suggestions on how to best craft user-friendly content and FAQ snippets that are easy to understand and convey safety to patients and consumers.

Why is it important for a healthcare organization to answer patient questions about the COVID vaccine?

While all pandemics are communications emergencies, the communications around this pandemic became especially politicized — and therefore confusing. Some consumers didn't trust what they were reading on more "official" public health websites. Instead of relying on the state and federal governments, they turned to brands they felt they could trust.

Whether it was a nationally-recognized health system or a local hospital, consumers trusted that information. Vaccines are an already charged subject. But consumers typically trust and listen to their healthcare providers. The more information a health system can convey to their customers, the more of a relationship they will build with them. And, as hospitals' missions are to provide for public health, it's their responsibility to clarify as much as possible about the Covid-19 vaccine. The more people that are vaccinated, the sooner this crisis can be put behind us, and we can move forward toward a better business environment.

What do you recommend healthcare organizations do to provide the right information to consumers?

The CDC has a wonderful playbook for this. Healthcare organizations should:

  1. Pick a doctor who is well-spoken and charismatic as the main communications point person. Surround that person with a team of other doctors like infectious disease specialists, internists, pediatricians and others who will write and communicate about vaccines

  2. Use your own search data to craft questions about the vaccine

  3. Use different types of content and channels to communicate your messages. Create videos, blogs, posts and evergreen FAQ pages to answer people's questions and address their concerns

We're seeing people ask questions about the COVID vaccine in a few categories, including: questions about the clinical trials, how the vaccine will be distributed, and about its safety. What do you recommend healthcare organizations do to effectively answer questions in these categories? Should they make sure they can answer them quickly via search? Should they create separate web pages linked from their homepage or COVID pages to answer these questions? Anything else you'd recommend?

One day, this will be over, and all of that COVID information will need to be "cleaned" from the site. We recommend a hub and spoke approach. There should be a COVID hub where the vaccine information is housed, but it should be available on different parts of the site. Some hospitals have chosen an always present top banner — and some have had their chatbot follow you around the site.

I would:

  1. Create a library of questions and answers

  2. Present them in as many different formats as possible, paying careful attention to written content to assist with search

  3. Produce the questions and answers in as many formats as you can

  4. Check your data daily and revise and create new questions/answers as possible

  5. You may want to consider A/B testing content with calls to action to see if answers are resonating with your audience.

For more information and insights, register for our COVID vaccine webinar on December 8 at 1pm ET / 10am PT here.

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