Healthcare facilities across the country are facing another hurdle as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – combating patient fears of catching the virus. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, 70 percent of patients are concerned about getting the virus if they go to their doctor for issues outside of COVID-19.
Here are a few ways facilities are using online tools to build trust with patients, educate them on new safety protocols, and ensure they don’t put off important care.
Online videos to calm patient fears
“I think a lot of people think the disease is in hospitals,” says Tim Putnam, CEO of Margaret Mary Health. “Like it oozes from the walls or something.”
To fix that perception, MMH created a COVID-19 video gallery that patients can easily find on their website. “We’ve tried to let our community know more about the disease, what’s happening, and what they need to be aware of,” says Putnam.
Many of the videos feature MMH physicians who clarify popular COVID-19 terms, explain the value of telehealth, and educate patients on the importance of scheduling screenings that were delayed because of the virus. Other videos provide community updates, media briefings, and even a virtual tour of what safety measures patients can expect when they return to the hospital.
Pro tip: If you’d like to create your own videos but don’t have high-tech video equipment, don’t worry – a smartphone can do the trick. Consider filming updates from your staff, uploading them to a free YouTube or Vimeo account, and sharing the videos on your website and social media pages – or even linking to them in patient emails.
Facebook is an additional online marketing tool healthcare facilities are using to calm patient fears. “Our community gets a lot of their information on Facebook,” says Austin Gillard, CEO of Clay County Medical Center. “So, we’re using it as a way to connect with them.”
To calm patient fears about catching the virus, CCMC shares updates on safety precautions and photos of donated PPE and hand sanitizer. They even share patient testimonials, new hospital awards, and photos of recently delivered babies to engage their community, build trust with patients, and illustrate that their staff and procedures are as effective as before the pandemic.
Pro tip: Members of your community may prefer different social media channels. Cross-share your updates on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even LinkedIn to ensure you’re reaching as many patients as you can.
Sending polls and creating clarity
“We actually polled people who weren’t even our patients in the region and the overwhelming majority of people stated that they cared what their provider thought more than even the government,” says Byron Wade, director of physician recruitment and placement for University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “We used that as recognition that we’re a trusted source.”
To make sure patients knew exactly what “elective procedures” means, UPMC petitioned the state of Pennsylvania to revamp nomenclature to use emergent (procedures that need to be done now), urgent (procedures that need to be done within 48 hours), essential (procedures that should be done in less than four weeks), and elective procedures (patients have a choice and can wait).
The new terms helped patients realize that procedures they thought were elective – things like cancer procedures, according to Wade – needed to be taken care of. In return, it helped patient volume increase for emergent, urgent, and essential procedures.
“It was important for us to go back and make sure we educated everybody and let them know that certain procedures could be vital to their health and wellbeing,” says Wade.
Pro tip: Partner with your governance committee and marketing department to come up with survey questions for your own patients. Then, create a survey through online tools like SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics and share the survey through email, text, or social media. The findings can help you determine which patient concerns to address and how.
No matter the tools you use, reaching out to your patients with informative, engaging resources can alleviate their lingering fear of catching COVID-19 – and ensure your patient volume gets back to where it should be.
Looking for more advice to help you recover? Watch the webinar recording, Planning for the Unplanned: Advice and Outlook from Healthcare Leaders, or give us a call at 866.588.5996 to discuss your facility’s staffing needs.