Using Patient Engagement Solutions to Communicate with Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Healthcare organizations are using patient engagement software to keep patients safe and informed during viral outbreaks, natural disasters, and other major disruptions. 

Article Overview:

Introduction

The United States is seeing the beginning of fast, widespread action across the nation as the reality of the COVID-19 takes hold. As hospitals have prepped their staff, postponed elective surgeries, and transformed their units into dedicated COVID-19 patient beds, we know that medical offices are also on the front lines of this pandemic. In addition to reducing patient loads and asking patients with non-essential appointments to postpone care, we’re seeing first-hand providers using patient engagement tools to keep patients updated and guide them to the right resources, whether that’s into their offices for care, to testing sites, or straight to an inpatient setting for higher-level care. Patient engagement tools, like 2-way patient chat and digital intake, are being used by medical practices to further mitigate the risk of exposure for both patients and their staff. In some cases, these tools are helping patients check-in and wait for their turn from their vehicles, skipping the waiting room entirely. 

We see you and we’re here to help. Last week alone, Relatient customers sent 1.4 million messages mentioning COVID-19. Their messaging includes everything from how to properly wash your hands, isolation protocols, where to go if you believe you have COVID-19, when to seek immediate medical care, information on how to keep other people safe while visiting their offices, and more.

For current Relatient customers, we urge you to utilize Broadcast/Demand Messaging for the bulk of your educational content and critical updates. You can craft this messaging yourself and determine the best method of distribution based on your own patient demographics. For managing one-to-one patient conversations, whether clinical in nature or not, we encourage you to use Messenger Chat and Secure Messaging. This gives you the opportunity to triage would-be “phone patients”, answer quick questions, and offer advice without playing phone tag with your patients or tying up precious resources. Keep reading for details on how to use these tools and resources for getting help below.

For organizations not currently using Relatient’s patient engagement platform, keep reading. While you may not be able to use some of the guide below as step-by-step instructions, it’s likely your current vendor has some of these capabilities and you can use these ideas to make the most of those solutions. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a partner in patient engagement to help you communicate with patients effectively and who will be there to help when a crisis hits, let’s schedule a call. 

The CDC created a guide for healthcare providers, Steps Healthcare Facilities Can Take Now to Prepare for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This guide offers helpful advice for preparing, communicating, and protecting both your workforce and your patients during this outbreak. Key to this guide is the importance of keeping both your staff and patients frequently updated as the information regarding COVID-19 is changing rapidly and at times may require swift action on behalf of your practice.

The Department of Health and Human Services also relaxed the requirements for conducting Telehealth for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, providers who aren’t already up and running with a HIPAA-compliant Telehealth solution can quickly start assessing and treating non-urgent patient conditions via non-secure channels (think Facetime) in order to keep patients at home and reduce the spread of the virus.

Below are some patient engagement strategies to help healthcare leaders carry out the CDC guidelines and help patients navigate new ways of receiving care. 

How Patient Engagement Tools are Helping

Broadcast/Demand Messaging

Push critical updates to patients and staff as new information is made available. Below are some updates you may want to push to your patients and/or staff.

For Patients: 

  • Directions for what to do if a patient believes they have coronavirus
    • Reschedule non-essential appointments if showing symptoms
    • Do not bring children or additional adults to appointments
  • Sites testing for coronavirus and when a patient should or should not visit those sites
  • Resources for reliable data and information, namely the CDC
  • Extended or shortened hours of operation

For Staff:

  • Updates on any staff members who have confirmed cases of coronavirus or have been exposed
  • A call for extra help, extra shifts available
  • Schedule changes
  • General updates about the virus and actions taken within the community

Messenger Chat and Secure Messaging  

Answer simple questions, triage patients, and help patients get the care they need. Staff and clinicians can initiate 2-way conversations with patients related to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. HIPAA and security protection are available for detailed or clinical conversations. Here are some conversations easily handled with Messenger Chat and Secure Messaging: 

Messenger Chat

  • Directions for parking
  • Information about coronavirus testing sites 
  • Hours of operation 
  • Appointment changes 

Secure Messaging

  • Patient triage
  • Questions about when to be seen and when to stay home 
  • Self-quarantine directions for infected patients 
  • Prescription refill information 
  • Questions about test results and care plans 
  • Patient follow-up

Appointment Reminders 

Whether it’s a solid educational resource or a screening tool to help patients identify their potential COVID-19 symptoms before arriving at your office, you can use the language in your appointment reminders to help patients adhere to the CDC and WHO’s COVID-19 guidelines. 

    Pre-registration Screening

    eRegistration offers medical offices the ability to move the patient intake process earlier in the patient journey and jumpstart the patient financial experience by collecting payer information before the appointment. Adding a COVID-19 screening form to the pre-registration eforms allows a practice to obtain prior notice of a patient who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or believes they have been exposed to virus. Advanced notice empowers practice staff to reach out to patients who may present with COVID-19 and guide them through the appropriate isolation and testing protocols, reducing the exposure risk to their staff and other patients. 

    Self-Scheduling: Custom Appointment Type

    For medical practices using patient self-scheduling or online scheduling, a custom sick visit for COVID-19 patients allows patients self-identify during the scheduling process, providing practice staff the same ability described above to reach out to patients and guide them through the appropriate protocols. 

    Today it’s coronavirus. 

    COVID-19 has made it crystal clear how important and necessary patient engagement tools are during times of widespread panic and confusion, but this isn’t the first crisis, nor will it be the last. Relatient customers have used our patient engagement platform to keep their patients and their staff safe and informed during hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, and more. Sometimes it’s a major crisis, sometimes your OBGYN gets caught in a delivery and is running two hours behind. Whatever the situation may be, we want you to have the confidence of knowing you’re equipped with the tools to calmly and efficiently direct patients and distribute accurate, relevant information without tying up precious resources. 

    Relatient is here to help. 

    If you’re a current Relatient customer with questions or are looking for assistance to use any of the solutions mentioned above to inform and guide your patients, we are here to help. You can contact support or start with our self-service guide

    Need a quick reference or something you can share internally, download a copy of this handout

    Looking for more? The health innovators over at Avia some have some advice to share as well, here’s their article, 6 Digital Tactics Health Systems Can Implement This Week to Battle COVID-19. 

    Wishing you had a partner like Relatient? Let’s talk. We can show you how our solutions can equip for medical office(s) to communicate with patients more effectively. Whether its coronavirus, inclement weather, or general follow-up and prevention, we have the tools for effective patient communication. Schedule a call with us

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