Americans are again willing to visit their physicians’ offices and hospitals. This is according to a recent report by AdvaMed which shows 75% of Americans are ready to visit doctor’s offices again. But are they really? With the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases in many states across the country, that percentage may now be different. Depending where you reside, the answer is going to vary.
One thing is evident, patients are immune to general, national messaging regarding COVID-19 and the safety of routine and non-emergency doctor visits and hospital procedures. What patients really desire is local, relevant data and immediate access to medical professionals and experts they trust.
The most reliable voices to hear from: local hospitals and healthcare delivery systems. Now is the time for medical professionals to re-examine their brand messaging and how to effectively reach patients. The healthcare organizations that lead and pave new ways of informed communications will be the trusted brands of tomorrow.
4 Ways to Rebuild Patient Trust
Build credibility for your organization as an information resource.
Communication from executive level leadership will provide a level of comfort, but patients want personalized content with direction and advice from the physicians and caregivers they trust. Arm your doctors with infection data and details specific to their local area, and customized messaging to show you have an informed and knowledgeable team of physicians and support staff.
Have your physicians reach out to referrers so they know who is open and for which procedures. Each hospital and healthcare facility has different procedures, with different case counts. Share newly placed protocols.
Start a weekly eNewsletter as a way to keep patients and staff up-to-date on new protocols, and reasons not to postpone preventive and non-emergency care. Use social media channels to your advantage. Feature doctors and front-line employees and care providers to make the message more personal. It is important that patients hear messaging that provides local, personalized messaging that is relevant to them.
Ease patient fear. Be specific with new safety measures to protect against virus infection.
Don’t assume patients think it’s safe to visit your hospital or physician office. Over communicate the specific protocol changes you’ve incorporated to prevent Covid-19 spread. Let patients know prior to their visit what procedural changes have been made. Be specific in describing the check-in process and what they can expect during their visit, and what is expected of them. Be sure they understand the protocol for contact with office staff, their physician or healthcare provider, and even other patients. Reducing fear comes from clear and consistent communication.
Make it easy for patients. Bundle your services.
For many people both safety and time are issues preventing routine visits. With so many people working from home while also taking care of children, making and keeping doctor visits are challenging. Consider bundling services so that patients make fewer trips for healthcare. For women, providing an annual exam, mammogram and bone density screening can all be done in one visit. Reducing the number of visits shows you value their time, but also reduces the opportunity for exposure.
Promote the advantages of telemedicine.
If you don’t have a telemedicine system in place, make it a top priority. Now is the time to help patients get comfortable with the practice. Offer to provide assistance for patients who may need help with the technology of virtual medicine. There is a segment of the population already expecting virtual health services. Those people will embrace telemedicine as their preferred practice. In fact, some healthcare organizations are actually losing younger patients to providers who offer virtual visits. Making this an option shows innovation and consideration for long-term care.
Patients may be ready to return to their doctors and medical facilities, but it will take time for people to get over the fear induced by the pandemic. Healthcare organizations who take advantage of new approaches will see patient volume rise faster than those who simply hope for the best.