How Will New COVID-19 Variants Affect Your Patient Population?
The number of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to new COVID-19 variants has been rising in recent weeks. An analysis by Reuters showed that in June and July, the average number of new COVID-19 cases per day tripled in the United States. Of those new cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes more than 80 percent involve the Delta variant.
Even more, the first cases of the new Lambda variant have been reported. However, public health experts say it is too soon to tell whether it will rise to the same level of concern as the Delta variant.
The new variants will affect your patient population, especially those that are unvaccinated. In this next wave of the pandemic, your health systems will face two major challenges in combatting increasing infection rates—vaccine hesitancy and the likelihood of additional coronavirus variants.
Your health system can meet the new demands of this sudden increase in cases by enhancing touchpoints and expanding communication with patients. Here are three communication strategies to effectively respond to new inquires, share information with patients hesitant to get vaccinated, and provide patient education about new COVID-19 variants.
Utilize COVID-19 Hotlines
With the Delta variant reporting to be significantly more contagious, you should expect your inbound call volumes to increase exponentially. Establishing dedicated COVID-19 hotlines to answer patient questions is one of the most effective ways to keep patients informed without burdening your staff. Agents can answer patients' questions related to the new variants and the vaccine.
Additionally, agents can be prepared to answer questions about vaccine efficacy for variants of COVID-19. Reports of breakthrough cases have given some people additional cause for vaccine hesitancy, making transparency and accuracy in patient education and communication more important than ever.
Even more, be sure to consider the diversity of your patient population and how best to communicate with everyone. You may require a multilingual hotline for non-English speakers. Ensuring your health system can answer questions in the patient's preferred language can better combat any vaccine hesitancy and even drive the patient to take action.
Our dedicated COVID-19 hotlines help you manage call volumes 24/7. Our team works with you to create a list of frequently asked questions from your patients and staff that our agents will use as a resource when answering your inbound calls.
Implement Live Voice Outreach Campaigns
It's important for your health system to think ahead and create a targeted live voice outreach campaign reminding patients that you are still scheduling vaccine and COVID-19 testing appointments. By proactively reaching out to your patient population now, you reduce the risk of losing patients to walk-in or retail clinics. Even more, a targeted communication outreach campaign will save your staff valuable time and reduce patient frustration.
Additionally, don't forget to follow up with patients who received a vaccine at your facility. Ensure they are managing any side effects and also take the opportunity to confirm their second dose appointment.
For patients diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19, post-discharge follow-up calls should be made within 24 to 48 hours of discharge. This allows you to answer any questions regarding their post-discharge instructions, medications, and care plans.
Empower Patients with Digital Resources
Some of your patient population will want to access COVID-19 resources online. Therefore, if you haven't already updated your COVID-19 resources to include information about the variants, you need to do so.
For example, be sure to update your FAQ webpage to include common questions about the Delta variant. Continue to edit this page with new information about the variants, COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine efficacy, and more to keep patients informed. In addition, you should place a pop-up or banner on your website's homepage that quickly takes visitors to your FAQs.
Once you have all your resources updated, you should utilize a message broadcast solution to let your patients know you have an updated FAQ page about the COVID-19 variants, as well as a COVID-19 hotline they can call for answers to specific questions.
Even more, give your patients the autonomy to schedule their appointment online for a COVID-19 vaccine or test. This is beneficial not only for those who want a vaccine but also for those that believe they've been exposed to, or have COVID-19, as well as for those that are traveling.
Despite the increase in COVID-19 cases, Americans across the country are traveling internationally again. Depending on the country, almost all require proof of a negative COVID-19 test or a vaccine record, and in some instances, both. Allowing patients to schedule these services online at the same time will help to improve your practice's efficiency.
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase and new information is released about COVID-19 variants, you want your patients to turn to your health system for support and resources. To learn more about how we can provide patient communications for your health system during this next wave, visit our COVID-19 scheduling and reminders solution webpage.