We are not yet past the pandemic. COVID-19 is still around and, at this writing, cases are up and risks are high across most of the nation.

But it’s also time for healthcare marketers to begin planning for life after COVID. What will the healthcare landscape look like when we can all breathe a little easier?

Frankly, we’re expecting it to be a quick breath and then back into the fray. The end of the pandemic comes with its own set of challenges: exhausted staff, practices and service lines that all need their business to resume, skittish patients who’ve put off care, shrinking budgets, and others. What’s a hard-working healthcare marketer supposed to do now?

We have a few words of advice. And they all start with refocusing on the basics.

Talk to women.

When you’ve been laboring in the trenches for so long, it’s easy to forget the basics. Women make more than 90% of decisions regarding their own health, and about 60%—married, unmarried, with kids or without—make healthcare decisions for others. They are also starved for time, information, and trust. Your marketing strategy should revolve around addressing these issues and making it easier for women to gain the knowledge that encourages trust—and make time for the care they know they and their loved ones need.

Make primary care primary.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has kept people from getting the care they need to address significant health issues: According to the CDC, nearly 41% of Americans report that they put off care, including more than 31% who put off routine care. And that might be an underestimate: 78% of respondents to a Time poll said they’d put off at least one medical service.

Now’s the time to bring them back into the fold by reminding them of the benefits of annual check-ups with their primary care physicians. For most patients, it’s the simplest, most practical way to reengage.

And don’t forget tele-health. After years of promise as the next big thing, COVID made it a necessity. It’s not going anywhere, and it may be the solution to a lot of those time-related issues patients experience.

Don’t forget about patient safety.

People are still worried about the virus. They may still be resisting going anywhere to see a doctor, and tele-health doesn’t work for everything.

So how can you assure people it’s ok to come see you? Can you claim your facilities are safer now than they used to be? Probably. We’re assuming you’re cleaning and sanitizing and wearing face coverings and doing a lot more than you used to. Can you claim a good Leapfrog rating? If so, do it. Be sure you’re telling patients not only that you’re ready to see them, but also that you’re going out of your way to protect their good health.

Become your own media company.

Women aren’t looking for new doctors every day. They’re not starved for knowledge about health care. They’re starved for knowledge about the health issues they and their loved ones face. You can offer that knowledge in a way that links them to local providers they can trust by providing great health information to your community.

For example, we created HealthPossible.org for our client Hancock Health and use it to share an ever-changing array of timely, lively health and lifestyle information with the people of east central Indiana. In its first year, with almost no promotion beyond organic Facebook posts, the site had 52,000 visits from people looking for health knowledge.

You don’t have to start your own health magazine site. Just remember that your patients don’t really care about your providers until they need them. But they’re interested in things that affect their health all the time.

Resist budget cuts.

We know, we know. This may not be under your control, and when an organization is looking to save money, marketing dollars always seem expendable. But no one ever drummed up more business by not marketing. You’re in a place where you need your patients to return. You need marketing more than ever.

And if you do need to cut your budget, it’s time to think about how to reach people more effectively. Content and social media marketing are key, as is smart search engine marketing. Video doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. But don’t neglect traditional media. If your budget allows, they’re still the most cost-effective ways to reach the largest audience.

Of course, we’ve just scratched the surface here. But if you remember your primary audience, how they get to you, what they’re concerns are, and what they care about—and you spend your marketing dollars wisely—you’ll get the post-pandemic era off to a good, healthy start.