With daily changes to social distancing rules and guidelines and which businesses and services stay open, access to healthcare for non-emergent cases is becoming a challenge. Patients need care, but it is not only doctors who now have a responsibility to keep fellow citizens safe and healthy.
During these uncertain times, communication from a healthcare professional or care provider can instill calm, while also flattening the curve. It is an ever-changing balance to provide care while also slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Below are five ways to engage with patients and their families, during the pandemic.
Keep Communications Clear and Precise
Just like each patient is unique, so is every medical clinic. You have policies, procedures, and guidelines that are specific to your services and clients. Communicating these on your website, via e-mail and phone with simple and straightforward wording can convey your message while reassuring your patients. Information such as how to schedule an appointment, or whether your clinic is offering virtual care is proactive information that can benefit patients, doctors, and staff.
Digitize Patient Screenings
Should your clinic remain open, offering a method to digitally screen patients in advance of entering the clinic can not only protect the health of other patients and clinic staff, but can reduce call volumes and visits by potentially infected patients.
Ensuring potential patients are aware of this new step is critical to flattening the curve and keeping the public safe.
Social distancing means turning to virtual methods as much possible, and medical appointments are no different. A virtual care visit provides an opportunity to discuss a patient’s progress and their care plan, while also determining if an in-person visit is needed.
With patients who require continued and ongoing care, the opportunity to interact “in person” with their physician can provide consistency and calm.
Patient confidentiality must be considered when sending out messages for virtual appointments. It bears stressing to the patient that a private e-mail should be used for communicating with your doctor and that the appointment should be taken in a private space.
Keep Families Informed
While we all social distance and self-isolate, family members who are actively involved in the healthcare decisions of a loved one may feel distressed at being unable to see their loved one, while also unable to participate in regularly scheduled appointments.
Family members and caregivers may be looking for guidance in caring for loved ones at a distance. Websites such as The Ontario Caregiver Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving are updated regularly and provide answers and resources.
Let patients/families know how to reach you and what to expect
Whether your clinic remains open or not, your patients will still have questions and concerns that need addressing. Prominently displaying new contact information or protocols, or providing alternative contacts and resources can let patients know you are thinking of them while reducing the burden on staff.
Similarly, letting them know about extended wait times, or the temporary pause of some services sets realistic expectations.
Clinics need to treat this moment of communication with their patients as an opportunity for engagement. To deliver information or instructions in a thoughtful, concise, efficient manner. Remember, your time is precious, and so is that of your patients.