As states begin lifting shelter-in-place or stay-at-home restrictions, providers are working on getting their practices back up and running. As you prepare to resume care delivery, keep in mind that patients may be hesitant to return to normal activities – especially ones who feel the risk of exposure to the coronavirus may be high.
Communicating your safety measures across all patient touchpoints can be reassuring for patients. This article outlines five key points to communicate. For an extended version of this article, which includes examples that may be used to craft your patient communications and how to reinforce messaging across patient touchpoints, click here.
Express Your Commitment to Safety.
Let your patients know that you take their concerns regarding personal safety seriously. You can achieve this by simply noting that the health and safety of patients and staff are a priority and that you have put the necessary precautions in place to ensure the safety of the patients and staff.
Remember to mention the importance of the safety of your staff when communicating with patients. Surveys conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic by consumer insights and strategy consulting firm Kelton Global (Kelton) revealed that Americans expect companies to prioritize safety for consumers AND employees. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents said that a company that supports its employees is a factor in consumer loyalty.
Indicate Your Commitment to Following National Authorities, Local Health Departments, or Other Industry Association Guidelines.
Remind patients that you are adhering to the recommended coronavirus safety measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and other industry associations to protect staff and patients. Patients need to know you are following the advice of trusted authorities.
Communicate the Specific Steps Taken to Protect Patients and Staff.
Be as transparent as possible about safety protocols you have in place to protect staff and patients. Points to highlight may include, as applicable:
- Enhanced sanitation protocols
- Screening of staff and visitors upon office entry
- Measures taken to enforce social distancing
- Use of personal protective equipment
Set Expectations About How the Appointment May Differ from Any Past Visits
- As we move towards a “new normal,” the patient experience is going to change. Some people do not adjust well to change and become impatient when dealing with the new or unfamiliar. Communicating clearly about what will be different about the appointment will help to create a more positive patient experience. Be sure to include any:
- New behaviors expected from the patient – including facemask requirements or limitation of non-patient guests.
- Changes to arrival and wait time – Will you need the patient to arrive earlier than scheduled for a COVID-19 screening? Will new sanitation procedures extend the patient’s wait time?
- New intake and check-in protocol – Will you ask the patient to complete paperwork before the appointment? Will you take the patient’s temperature upon entering your office?
- Changes to eyewear selection and ordering – Will you postpone contact lens fittings? How will you ensure safety during frame selection?
Highlight Alternative Options for High-Risk or Risk-Averse Patients.
If you are offering service options or unique protocols to address the concerns of vulnerable or risk-averse patients, be sure to highlight these options. Such options may include telemedicine, special or early morning appointment times that are reserved for high-risk patients, or allowing patients to wait outside or in their vehicles for their appointments.Including these points may help to address concerns about COVID-19 and bring a sense of security to your patients.