Over the past few weeks, stay-at-home orders across the nation have expired and states have begun a phased reopening. For healthcare organizations, this means elective surgeries and non-essential procedures are starting to resume. But getting patients back into the office isn't as simple as opening your doors.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, patients wouldn't think twice about their safety when entering a healthcare facility. Now, many patients are afraid to go to a hospital, even when it could be life-threatening. In fact, doctors across the country are seeing a declining trend in the number of patients with medical emergencies showing up at emergency rooms. At Providence St. Joseph, the volume of heart attack patients fell by about 50% in March compared to the same month last year. In Auburn, Massachusetts, the local fire department is receiving over two dozen calls a week from elderly patients who are sick but afraid to go to the hospital for treatment.
The reality is that many Americans are afraid or unsure of seeking care at a healthcare facility. This idea is not only life-threatening in some cases but can also have damaging long-term effects to the health of patients. Healthcare organizations must engage with patients and help them feel safe. Having a strategic reopening plan that includes proactive patient communication is key to protecting patients and staff while promoting positive patient experiences. Here are some steps your organization can take to prepare for reopening and reengaging:
PRIOR TO REOPENING
BUILD DEDICATED HOTLINES AND ESTABLISH ONLINE CHAT SERVICES to help field questions around reopening from patients, caregivers, and staff. Be sure to include answers to frequently asked questions such as which visits are now being scheduled, what to do if a patient missed an appointment, available options for telehealth visits, and how to prepare for a telehealth visit, etc.
USE ONLINE SELF-SCHEDULING AND LIVE VOICE SCHEDULING SERVICES to help patients reschedule missed appointments. Provide scheduling online and by phone to cater to the various needs of your patient populations. Send a text message with either a link to your online scheduling solution and/or your phone number to help patients take action.
PRIOR TO VISIT
USE AUTOMATED APPOINTMENT REMINDERS to send text messages, emails, and voice communications to drive patient adherence. Look for solutions that bundle multiple upcoming reminders into a single communication to prevent message fatigue.
USE MESSAGE BROADCAST TOOLS via text-to-speech and text message to send important instructions to patients to help them prepare for their appointment, complete the preregistration process, and submit their insurance information. Include instructions on new check-in and waiting room procedures.
DAY OF VISIT
USE MESSAGE BROADCAST TOOLS OR LIVE VOICE SERVICES to pre-screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms. Your questionnaire should determine if patients have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, sore throat, or systemic symptoms like myalgias or chills.
USE TWO-WAY TEXT MESSAGING SERVICES to communicate with patients during arrival and check-in. Text messaging services should be used for patients to notify you of their arrival as well as for you to provide arrival instructions and wait time information.
USE AUTOMATED OR LIVE VOICE INBOUND AND OUTBOUND CALLS, EMAIL, AND TEXT MESSAGING to customize post-appointment survey campaigns and capture patient feedback for operational improvement.
GATHER ONLINE REVIEWS AUTOMATICALLY to boost your search engine rankings and attract and convert prospective patients quickly.
As healthcare systems and providers navigate the reopening process, it can be difficult to know where to begin. The patient journey was already complicated. After COVID-19, it will be even more difficult to navigate as healthcare evolves and adapts to the new norm. Alleviate patient fears by creating positive patient engagements at every step of the new patient journey. To learn more best practices for promoting positive patient engagements during your reopening process, download our Patient Engagement Timeline.