The negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic extend further than high infection rates and strained medical facilities. After stopping most scheduled procedures, many hospitals have seen a significant drop off in emergency care, preventive care, and post-discharge follow-up care according to the Advisory Board). This means many people who require medical attention are not seeking it for fear of infection. Even in the midst of a global pandemic that’s placing unprecedented strain on our healthcare system, patients and healthcare workers need to be assured of a safe clinical environment.
Fostering patient and staff trust
According to an American College of Emergency Physicians survey, 70% of respondents reported being very or somewhat concerned about contracting the virus if they sought medical care for something other than COVID-19. The following practical measures and communications can help medical practices allay these fears.
Masks and hand sanitizer: Let patients know that all staff will be outfitted with the required PPE and that your facility will be supplying face masks should they require them. Emphasize that the requisite supplies will be on hand, such as tissues, soap dispensers in the bathroom, and hand sanitizers at all entrances. For patient peace of mind, communicate that staff will sanitize their hands both before and after consultations, and that all common areas and exam rooms are routinely disinfected and cleaned.
Screening and testing: You can alleviate patient worries by establishing a thorough process that screens every person entering your facility for symptoms such as fever and loss of smell and taste
Prepare the area: Promote social distancing by placing clear markers to guide people on where to check-in and where to check-out. Some patients may feel cautious about spending time in a waiting room, so offer an online check-in service that allows them to wait outside until they receive a notification. Chairs should be spaced out by 6 feet and, where possible, barriers or partitions should be erected.
Waiting room etiquette: Patients need to be reassured that they will not be in the close vicinity of those awaiting consultations for suspected COVID-19. Designated entrances and evaluation areas and outdoor or parking lot waiting areas with cell phone notification need to be arranged for COVID-19 patients to limit the risk of exposure to patients seeking care for other ailments.
The above protocols and processes aren’t only for patients — putting these in place will make staff feel more comfortable coming into work to deliver the care that’s needed in these trying times.
Use communication channels to put minds at ease
From social media and local press coverage to email and text messaging, there are many communication channels at your disposal to reach your patients and give them peace of mind. A good example of this is a Public Service Announcement that Boston Hospitals put out in April. In the video, healthcare professionals from a broad range of specialties address the need to seek medical care during the pandemic. You can view it below:
Solidarity and compassion in times of great stress
The pandemic is a time of high anxiety for both staff and patients, and it’s up to medical facility managers to implement protective measures to mitigate these feelings of stress. By doing so, more patients will receive the care they need, and healthcare professionals will be able to administer that care without distraction.
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