Rise & Thrive: How The Villages Health Met the Unprecedented Challenges of 2020

February 09, 2021   /   by  Roger West

The Villages Health demonstrated that truly understanding their patients and trusting their team members at every level enabled nimble, effective adaptation to unexpected challenges.

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Who is The Villages Health?

The Villages Health serves more than 52,000 patients in Florida’s Sumter County and surrounding areas. It is ranked in the top 1% of health systems in the United States and is the No. 1 physician group in North and Central Florida, according to data compiled by UnitedHealthcare. It employs more than 500 healthcare professionals and staff in eight locations.

Nearly 80% of residents in the Villages are 65 and older and the area proudly calls itself “America’s Healthiest Hometown.” Villagers, as they’re known, expect readily accessible, personalized medical care, with doctors who offer extended appointment times and take the time to know them well.

Recognition & Response – Reassurance, Education, Fast Action

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron and The Villages Health leadership team knew at the onset of the pandemic in March that its renowned patient-centered, community-based healthcare model would be put to the test. Providing exceptional care without disruption to a mostly senior population would prove to be the ultimate challenge.

Dr. Lowenkron oversaw the plan for workflow changes and communication, which was developed based on input and recommendations from front-line care providers as well as all levels of leadership.

From ordering additional personal protection and testing equipment to new remote work procedures and office protocols, care was taken at every step to honor the trust The Villages Health has earned from patients over the years. The goal: Establish safe, new protocols to meet patient needs and expectations as seamlessly and quickly as possible.

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New Challenges – Supply Chain, Communications, Uncertainty

As with so many healthcare providers around the world, The Villages Health experienced challenges related to the supply chain, communications and emotional uncertainty.

Gathering and sharing information became the immediate priority. Lines of communication were established with patients, physicians, team members, and local and state health entities – including twice-daily phone calls with the Florida Department of Health.

New signage would need to be installed at office locations. Telephone operators would need training to incorporate new procedures in the nurse triage program. The system’s IT infrastructure would need to be reconfigured to handle work-from-home and additional telehealth options.

Strategic Shift – Accelerating Telehealth

Perhaps the most significant shift was an expansion of telehealth, the use of online video to conduct medical consultations. Telehealth was already was beginning to emerge as a convenient alternative to in-person doctor visits but had now become the No. 1 option for many patients.

In addition, medical education courses offered to patients by the Learning Center in a classroom setting were moved online.

No patient was asked to tackle unfamiliar technology on their own. Support staff worked with patients to ensure they had access to a video-capable smartphone or computer, and that all their tech-related questions were answered.

The Revelation – Sharing Ideas

The big discovery was more of a reinforcement of something The Villages Health leadership already believed – that the organization’s greatest strength is its people and a culture of mutual trust throughout the organization.

That came into play right from the start, when leadership empowered team members at every level to make adjustments that allowed them to adapt to the new reality. Leadership embraced the ideas that came from front-line care workers and incorporated them into the overall response strategy.

“I have an incredible amount of praise for the folks that work here,” said Dr. Lowenkron, who was particularly pleased with the team’s ability to innovate quickly in the face of unprecedented disruption. “We’ve seen it in practice before. That’s always been a core value. As a company, we’ve always been solid on the innovation side. In this case, we saw innovations coming from a broader group of people.”

The Takeaway – Risk-Based is Best

Lowenkron found that through all the uncertainty and innovation, The Villages Health managed to have one of its best business years. He credited the financial success to a shift to a risk-based business model, away from the fee-for-service model for healthcare.

“In a fee-for-service world, you got crushed,” Dr. Lowenkron said. “If you’re paid based on how well your patients do, this could be a real boon. 2020 will turn out to be a great year for The Villages Health, because we’re rewarded based on how well our patients do, rather than the number of procedures we do.”

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Roger West & The Villages Health

The Roger West team recommended a forward-thinking marketing and communications strategy as The Villages Health responded to a changing environment by pivoting to digital. The goals were to reassure patients that they would receive the same level of care they had come to expect while educating them about the challenges presented by the pandemic. Recommended tactics included:

  • Multitouch Attribution – Send a series of nurture emails to increase conversions and shorten conversion cycles.
  • Real-Time Marketing – Employ a library of creative assets to run in rotation through the end of the year. ​
  • Conversational Marketing – Use brand appropriate, conversational messaging with a local theme. ​
  • Focus on Digital – Increase presence on social media, paid media and display advertisements (with video).
  • Plan Ahead – Prepare in advance for the annual election period (AEP) with early promotion and education, along with a Take a Tour sitelink option across multiple campaigns and channels.

Work With Us

Our work with The Villages Health and other clients in 2020 gave us unique challenges. We take pride in providing creative solutions to the unexpected. If you'd like to work with us in 2021, let us know!

Download the full Healthcare Disruption infographic here.

Roger West Creative + Code

Roger West Creative & Code is a full-service digital marketing agency that helps companies build brands, generate leads, and keep customers inspired and engaged. The agency provides a dynamic environment for marketing pros to innovate and team up with clients to drive traffic to vibrant places and send messages that pack a punch.