Right now, the world is experiencing an unprecedented healthcare crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sense of panic and chaos many people have never experienced.
During a healthcare crisis, providers must do all they can to keep patients informed, calm, and safe. Read on for tips on connecting and communicating with patients during this novel coronavirus.
4 best practices for communicating with patients during a healthcare crisis
1. Ensure business information is up-to-date and available
COVID-19 might have caused you to temporarily change some of your standard business practices. It’s important to keep your business information updated online to keep both current and prospective patients in the loop.
If you are temporarily closing your practice or expanding your hours of operation, update your office hours on your website and important online profiles such as Google My Business and Facebook. (If your practice has temporarily closed and you use automated tools like appointment reminders, be sure to disable notifications until your practice reopens so you do not confuse patients.)
Depending on your specialty, it’s possible you’re receiving a high volume of requests. Let patients know if you have a preferred method of contact right now — for example, a direct phone line or email address — so you can streamline requests to best serve them.
It’s also important to let people know if you’re accepting new patients or referring healthy patients to a different facility. For example, you might be treating patients displaying symptoms of COVID-19 in your office but sending well patients elsewhere — or canceling their appointments entirely — to minimize their exposure to the virus.
2. Share facts from reputable sources and tackle misinformation
There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 on the web. Patients rely on you to separate fact from fiction, so don’t let them down.
Avoid spreading false information by only sharing data from reputable sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Medical Association (AMA). Always cite your source. This increases your credibility and helps ensure your message doesn’t get twisted as people share your updates with others.
If your patients have been asking you the same questions based on misinformation, nip it in the bud by writing a blog post, social media update, or email refuting the information. As a medical professional, you’re in a unique position to help stop false rumors.
3. Touch base often to keep patients well informed
Patients depend on their trusted healthcare providers during a healthcare crisis. The unknown nature of COVID-19 has created a sense of pandemonium, so your patients want to hear from you.
The frequency of your messages will depend on your specialty. For example, if you’re a primary care physician, family doctor, or pediatrician, you might share daily updates — or more if the need arises.
If you’re not in a general health specialty, you might only reach out with updates regarding changes to practice procedures. For example, the American Dental Association has advised dental providers to postpone all elective procedures. The U.S. Surgeon General has also asked hospitals and healthcare systems to consider stopping elective procedures for the foreseeable future.
If you change standard business practices, reach out once with the information, then again when the situation changes.
4. Use multiple channels to ensure messages are received
Not all patients use the same communication channels, which is why it’s important to share messages across multiple channels to reach as many people as possible.
Send emails, post updates on social media — possibly including Instagram Stories and Facebook Live — and write informative blog posts to help educate and inform. You should also post the most important information on your website homepage, possibly by installing a website popup.
It’s also a good idea to share information using Google Posts. More for prospective patients, this feature allows you to share messages on your Google My Business profile. This can make it easier for prospective patients seeking care to quickly determine whether your practice can meet their needs.
Helping healthcare practices communicate with patients during COVID-19
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, PatientPop can assist its customers in the following ways:
- Office hours: If you are closing or expanding your hours of operation, our Support Team can update your hours on important practice profiles.
- Marketing campaigns: Inform patients of any business changes or share communication about this novel coronavirus using our self-service Beta Marketing campaigns tool. We have a pre-built COVID-19 email template ready for you.
- Blog: If you want to share your knowledge of COVID-19 to a broad audience across the web, along with best practices for prevention or care, we offer an easy-to-use blogging tool within your practice portal.
- Website promo: PatientPop has created COVID-19 website popups you can use to quickly share information with site visitors. You can request to have one added to your site to lead patients to specific COVID-19 procedures or services you offer or to the CDC COVID-19 homepage.
If you are not a PatientPop customer but would like to speak with a member of our team about how PatientPop can help you effectively reach patients, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 is a major healthcare crisis that has taken the entire world by storm. Right now, your patients need you more than ever, so effective communication is a must.
As a healthcare professional, you want to do everything possible to help people get through this pandemic. Staying in touch with patients keeps them informed and makes them feel cared for in this time of distress.