The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed Americans to put health care on hold. Nearly half of adults said they or a family member have delayed medical care because of the outbreak. As stay-at-home restrictions relax, 68% of those who’ve delayed care plan to get this care in the next 90 days.1
As patients consider where to go for these health care services, be ready with answers to the top questions they’ll have about what you’re doing to keep them safe:1. Are you caring for COVID-19 patients in your facility?
It’s understandable that patients want to know if your health care organization is caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. Be direct in your response, including where treatment areas are located in relation to other care areas and the safety measures taken to isolate this patient population.2. How do you screen staff, patients, and visitors for COVID-19?
Communicate your policy and be specific about requirements that everyone—staff, patients, and visitors—be screened on arrival (temperature check). Are patients who have a scheduled surgery or other procedures required to have a viral COVID-19 test—using a nasal swab or saliva sample to detect current infection? Direct patients to coordinate their testing and results with their provider.3. What personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements are in place?
Your facility will likely have different PPE requirements for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care areas. Provide guidance on whether PPE will be provided to patients, or if they’re required to bring their own. Prepare patients for the PPE they’ll see on staff, and clarify misconceptions about the reuse of PPE.4. Are visitors permitted and what are the policies?
Clearly communicate visitor policies in advance of scheduled patient procedures or appointments. If patients can have visitors, direct visitors to remain in the patient’s room, or let them know they’re allowed to use waiting rooms. If a patient is permitted to bring a caregiver to an appointment, convey any limitations. For patients required to remain alone, reassure caregivers by explaining how the patient will safely get to and from the appointment, as well as options for secure drop-off and pickup. Providers can call the patient’s caregiver from the exam room when the appointment is completed and provide printed copies of any notes or instructions—especially helpful for patients with memory issues.5. Is virtual health care an option?
If patients remain a bit uneasy about returning for in-person care, virtual health care may be an option for treating many non-emergency conditions and even providing specialty care. Patients appreciate that they can see their provider or care team while still in the safety of their home. Share instructions for accessing virtual care, along with equipment (smartphone, tablet, computer) requirements. Let patients know if additional costs are involved and if insurance may cover.
For more patient reengagement tips, check out our Encourage patients to come back for care with confidence infographic. Share information on your website, social media, newsletters, and other communication channels to reassure patients that their return to your care will be a safe and healthy one.
1 Hamel L, Kearney A, Kirzinger A, Lopes L, Munana C, Brodie M. KFF Health Tracking Poll—May 2020. KFF Web site. https://www.kff.org/report-section/kff-health-tracking-poll-may-2020-health-and-economic-impacts. Accessed June 3, 2020.
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