After weeks of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, people are looking forward to the day when the economic “switch” is “flipped back on” and life returns to some semblance of normalcy.
But not so fast.
Most public health experts agree that a phased re-opening of the economy is a better approach rather than returning to business as usual all at once. Accordingly, U.S. states are outlining their COVID-19 response and reopening phases with varying degrees of urgency.
Healthcare organizations are embracing a similar model of phased re-openings and easing of limitations. Many elective procedures and non-essential services that were shut down are beginning to reopen, with at least 30 states allowing or announcing plans to allow elective surgeries.
Here are a few tips for helping your staff and patients navigate this new period of adjustment:
- Do proactive outreach. Communicate with patients who had to cancel procedures because of the lockdown. Use an automated recall or outreach service to decrease the administrative burden on your staff and refill your schedule at the appropriate volume and pace.
- Prepare patients for their visits: Communicate new policies as part of the appointment reminder. Include information that will affect patients directly, such as contactless/computer check-in, temperature checks on arrival, waiting room occupancy and visitor restrictions, and mask-wearing procedures. Providing this information upfront will help patients come prepared and increase safety through compliance.
- Ease fears: Let patients know the full extent of safety measures you’ve put in place. Consider sending a message explaining protocols such as regular testing of employees, limiting the number of employees and patients on site, distancing requirements, office hour adjustments, and disinfection strategies for equipment, waiting rooms and exam rooms.
- Promote telehealth options: Telehealth continues to be an option for some appointments and can help reduce your backlog of patient visits. Be sure to communicate the telehealth option to qualified patients. Make it easy by providing an easy link to telehealth technology in the appointment reminder.
Communicating your updated visit protocols, safety measures and telehealth options will help ensure positive experiences for your patients and staff during this “new normal” in healthcare. Feeling safe and secure will encourage patients to get the care they need—while helping your organization to recover during this challenging time.