While a global pandemic could distract from population health goals, healthcare teams are finding that it can also accelerate practical changes that lead to better public health. The people who most need the benefits of population health efforts are also those who are affected most severely by COVID-19: older individuals, those with chronic health challenges, and those experiencing poverty. Keeping higher-risk populations out of hospitals that are increasingly focused on acute COVID-19 patients is a goal of both population health programs and pandemic response teams. 1
Patient communication and education strategies can work hand-in-hand to accomplish population health goals and pandemic awareness messaging. Here are some things healthcare organizations can do to advance their population health outreach amidst the COVID-19 response.
1. Become the authoritative healthcare voice.
With countless sources of information available and rumors abounding—especially in the midst of the pandemic — it is essential that healthcare providers become the trusted authority to push accurate, actionable facts and advice to their patients. This is the case irrespective of the size of the organization, whether a private practice or the largest healthcare system.
With so many conflicting messages in the popular media, people are looking for a calm, knowledgeable medical authority who can consistently provide updated and trustworthy information. According to recent polling data from Public Opinion Strategies, only 18 percent of Americans say they regularly receive health-related information regarding COVID-19 from their doctors or providers—yet 66 percent of Americans view doctors and providers as highly trusted sources of information. Clearly, consumers are looking to healthcare providers to alleviate their fears and concerns and explain the measures they've implemented to keep patients safe and healthy. Healthcare organizations that become the trusted source of COVID-19 information have an advantage in not only becoming an authoritative voice but also improving patient health outcomes through population health initiatives.
2. Tailor your messaging.
You have patients who need both information and services related to population health matters—and at the same time, high risk groups most especially need to hear what they must do to control the spread of the virus. But in both cases, one tactic won't reach everyone.
Patients consume information in diverse ways. Some will read email, while some won't. Texting reaches others. Some don't have access to digital technology, but most people are connected by phone. And diversity also means that some people in your area don't speak English and may not be comfortable reading it, either.
Yet there is information that every person in your service area needs to hear, and there are messages that specific demographic groups must understand and respond to. Public health data has shown the need for targeted messaging, and some alarming statistics about the spread of the novel coronavirus among subgroups has emphasized that need. As you reach out to your community, you must be sure that your message can reach each individual in a way that they can understand and act on it.
3. Follow up is the key to effective patient communication.
Consistency matters when you're communicating to affect public health outcomes, and it matters when you're guiding patients through uncertain times. They want to know when to schedule another office visit, what services are available to them, and which services they need to utilize. Patients with chronic health conditions need ongoing follow up reminding them of needed physicals, tests, and dietary guidance. They need ongoing encouragement to adhere to medical advice. Attending scheduled appointments is crucial, so a quick response to no-shows that includes rescheduling at the patient's convenience benefits all. A side benefit of an established patient communication and follow up plan is that urgent messages, from office closures to crucial pandemic announcements, can be carried out quickly and efficiently as well.
Keeping patients healthy and avoiding hospitalizations can be a challenging task. For many healthcare organizations, Stericycle's Health & Wellness solution is an effective communication tool to accomplish both urgent and non-urgent population health and pandemic communications. Designed to
manage quick and effective messaging and to free healthcare staff from administrative minutiae, it facilitates highly complex patient outreach initiatives that keep individuals informed, educated, and engaged in their health and the management of their conditions.
Stericycle's Health & Wellness solution features clinical and non-clinical multilingual voice services and completely customizable multichannel/multitouch campaigns. Thousands of times daily, healthcare professionals rely on it to target patient populations by handling appointment reminders and no-show rescheduling, delivering procedure prep instructions, reinforcing order and referral adherence, and managing many other tasks affecting population health management. To learn how Stericycle Health & Wellness Campaigns can improve your population health initiatives, download our solution data sheet.