The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, a strain, a worry — pick your stress — for healthcare providers and patients. As we all eagerly eye the light at the end of the tunnel, most healthcare experts agree there’s only one action that can get us all back to real “business as usual”: the widespread vaccination of communities and populations against COVID-19. Although empowering healthcare practices to take part has been a slow process in some states, many practices are playing an integral role in this effort to achieve normalcy.
When they can and choose to, private practices that offer the COVID-19 vaccine support continued vaccine distribution throughout the country, which is particularly important in rural and underserved communities. Patients trust their local healthcare providers as a source of critical health information and services; when physicians and other healthcare providers within the community can administer the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s a critical opportunity to erode vaccine hesitancy and further strengthen patient loyalty.
In fact, during the pandemic, the Associated Press reported that 66 percent of patients indicate they place the most trust in their healthcare providers for COVID-19 information. Just this week, the state of Ohio began distributing vaccines to private practices, in hopes that the trusted patient-provider relationship will encourage more residents to get vaccinated.
Four tips for successful COVID-19 vaccine distribution among healthcare practices
For smaller, independent healthcare practices, launching a COVID-19 vaccine program may feel overwhelming without the proper tools and guidance. To help practices feel more confident in their ability to administer COVID-19 vaccinations and address the public health emergency (PHE), here are some top tips to help optimize a COVID-19 vaccine operation.
- Follow the CDC guidelines.
Per the CDC, practices that participate in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program must sign a provider agreement and adhere to all requirements set forth by the agreement. This includes following training guidelines, managing and reporting vaccine inventory, and more.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a variety of helpful toolkits and resources, including guidelines on how to bill correctly when administering vaccines (important note: practices cannot seek reimbursement directly from patients). Likewise, the CDC offers a comprehensive repository of information to help healthcare practices navigate vaccine distribution.
- Spread the word throughout your community.
It’s imperative to let your patients and the community-at-large know you’re offering the COVID-19 vaccine. It also gives you an opportunity to differentiate your practice, drive awareness of you and your services, and gain patient loyalty in your area. We recommend practices communicate their vaccine availability via customized website content and email campaigns to their current patient base, specifically to drive appointment volume. In addition, consider a social media campaign and local media outreach strategy to broaden the reach of your message — and maximize the number of vaccinated people. If you’re not sure what to say in your local outreach, there is plenty of assistance. Some state health departments offer campaign messaging and themes for healthcare providers to use. The CDC website offers a COVID-19 Vaccine Communications Toolkit, and PatientPop offers COVID-19 vaccine email templates for practices to use.
- Make the vaccine effort easy for patients and staff.
Convenience is critical for nearly every public health initiative, and the vaccine is certainly no exception. A lack of access and convenience can be barriers to widespread vaccination.
To make it easy for patients to quickly find and schedule a vaccine appointment with your practice, consider using digital tools. They should also be able to fill out their registration and pre-vaccination screening forms online, before arriving at our practice. From email templates to online scheduling and forms to automated appointment reminders, the PatientPop COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduler and Communication Solution can take the workload off practice staff while delivering a convenient patient experience.
- Close the communications loop.
With the changing balance of supply and demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in certain areas of the country (particularly with the recent pause on Johnson & Johnson doses), it’s important for healthcare practices to stay in touch with patients who are scheduled to get their shot(s). The PatientPop all-in-one practice growth platform maintains that patient connection with appointment reminders and confirmations via email and two-way text message. Then, following each appointment, PatientPop automatically sends patients a post-visit patient satisfaction survey — happy patients help spread the word to others, and constructive feedback can help identify opportunities for process improvement in the short-term. As a total package, practices have the tools necessary to strengthen the patient-provider relationship in the long run.