How can healthcare marketing and communications staff best support your patients and organization during the COVID-19 pandemic? Use your skill set to route patients to the appropriate type of care.
Informing patients about your organization’s care options — and which choice is right for their specific needs — is always important. It’s even more critical in this moment, when healthcare organizations are experiencing or preparing for increased patient volumes and stressors due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.
Promoting Access to Care on Your Website
Does your organization currently have “access to care” content on your website? If so, review it, and consider updating or augmenting it to reflect any changes necessitated by the coronavirus outbreak, following the guidelines in this article.
If you do not currently explain access to care options to patients, now is the time to add this content to your website. Create a webpage specifically about the options for care your organization offers, who should use them and when, and how these guidelines reflect safety and quality measures put in place due to COVID-19.
Coronavirus Care Guidance
Knowledge is power. Educating patients about COVID-19 and, if needed, the next steps they can take to get help can dispel fear. Include information about the symptoms of COVID-19, specifying:
- What symptoms can someone manage at home? How?
- What factors (such as an existing health condition or immune system deficiency) or symptoms mean someone should get medical help
Most healthcare facilities are asking people to call ahead before they visit in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Make it clear when a patient should call their primary care provider, use an e-visit, call a nurse line or COVID-19 hotline, send a message through MyChart or another patient portal, or go to the emergency room (ER).
To meet the needs of their communities, some organizations are implementing new options, like virtual care visits, or making virtual visits to screen and triage patients for COVID-19 free to patients. Geonetric has developed an online self-assessment using Formulate, our form builder, specifically for healthcare websites. Geonetric clients can implement this assessment today to help patients understand their risk for infection and take the next step when appropriate.
Correct Myths & Misconceptions
Unfortunately, you’re fighting misinformation exacerbated by fear. A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, while most respondents recognize someone who thinks they have symptoms should stay at home and call a medical provider, 25% believe they should “seek care immediately at an emergency room or urgent care facility.” This number rises to 38% among respondents with lower incomes. Your role as a healthcare communicator — providing trusted, factual information — is essential.
Guidance for Other Healthcare Concerns
Most hospitals are canceling nonemergency procedures or changing how they deliver routine care. Your patients have questions like, “can I still get my checkup to renew my prescription?” and “what should I do about this skin rash?” Make sure your access to care information directs patients to the care option that is appropriate for their needs, so users understand when and how to get the care they need.
When you promote telehealth options for nonemergency care, it can help your organization increase capacity elsewhere in your organization for acute care needs — and, again, keep people safe at home. Learn more about leveraging telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic and what other health systems are doing.
Voice & Tone
The language you use matters. Avoid a negative, frightening tone or voice, and reassure patients your organization is there for them, providing care and support when your community needs it most. This approach can help patients gain more peace of mind while they’re social distancing at home, or if they or a loved one must seek care for COVID-19 symptoms or another healthcare issue.
Follow Web Writing Best Practices
Stress can affect anyone’s ability to find and process information. Make sure your content uses language your readers can understand and follows other best practices for online health communications.
An Example: Cone Health
Cone Health, a system based in Greensboro, NC, partnered with Geonetric to make their care options promotion dynamic, patient-focused, and intuitive. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, they’ve deployed an alert banner that directs people to resources about the disease.
The health system also offers a helpful infographic to guide users, step-by-step, through what to do if they think they might be infected [PDF], highlighting the availability of free MyChart COVID-19 e-Visits.
Cone Health developed a Q&A page with Cynthia Snider, MD. Dr. Snider answers questions like:
- What is COVID-19?
- How does it spread?
- How can I protect myself?
- What are the symptoms?
Learn more about how to answer common questions about the pandemic and tailor this content to the needs of the geographic area you serve.
We’re in This Together
There’s a lot on your plate right now and things are changing quickly. Contact Geonetric if you need help putting together a care options pages on your site, or other services to address pressing issues that have arisen due to the coronavirus outbreak, or to help make sure your day-to-day marketing tasks continue to get done.