Reengaging Patients in a Post-Pandemic World
Your doors are open and patients in your community are starting to slowly emerge from sheltering in place. They are tentatively moving toward getting back to normal after the lockdowns instituted during the early days of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Close to the top of your agenda will be a mission to reengage with patients in the new, post-pandemic world.
This is not a time to be complacent. The future economic security of your organization could hang in the balance.
As we recover from the ravages of the pandemic, you’ll need to do more than just hope folks will start making appointments and actually leave their homes to avail themselves of your services.
For best results, you’ll adopt a serious approach to encourage patients to get back on the pathway toward improved health.
Patients Apprehensive About In-person Meetings and Telemedicine Appointments
Your first thought might very well be to promote telemedicine, or remote medicine to patients. They can use their smartphone or laptop camera to connect with their doctor for certain types of appointments.
But remote medicine can’t substitute for the kind of hands-on work that medical professionals do routinely in the examination rooms.
That provides context for a study conducted nationwide by The Martec Group, reported on by the Medical Group Management Association. According the MGMA, a significant proportion of patients are feeling insecure about engaging again with America’s healthcare system. “Concerns identified include both in-person and remote care.”
Three out four groups of surveyed patients still feel anxious, cautious and nervous about reengaging with healthcare providers. Only 17% of them reported feeling happy or hopeful about such encounters.
Still, telehealth sessions can be a great way for patients to transition from staying cooped up at home to seeing their health care provider. So if you don’t provide telemedicine now, it could be an important tool for engagement that you’ll want to try as soon as possible.
Reengaging Patients Could Be a Matter of Life or Death
While we do have to understand and respect patients’ feelings (being nervous from the pandemic), we also need to take steps to restore their confidence in the medical system.
Otherwise, patients may continue to put off physicals and other routine tests. The sooner doctors do these delayed tests, the better chance they have of healing sick patients, when problems are less severe.
Tips for Boosting Patient Reengagement
Use all available means to reach out to your patients. Some are more comfortable with printed materials (such as your elderly population), while others will prefer the digital route, such as social media.
Use Your Newsletter
So start by publishing articles in your newsletter that you email (or print and send by surface mail) to explain all the health and safety precautions you’re taking in the office now. Provide details such as how often you clean surfaces and your usage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Harness Social Media
Use your social media pages, including Twitter and Facebook to talk about how patients are doing better when they come in for routine services. You might shoot some behind-the-scenes video to post online.
Engage Through Blog Posts
Address patient concerns in your blog, too. Wellness topics and updates about new equipment you’re using all help to engage with patients.
Try a Chatbot
Is your organization making full use of current technology for engagement? Consider that an automated chatbot can respond to patients’ questions 24/7 from your website.
Call About Missed Appointments
Don’t forget all of the appointments patients canceled at the height of the pandemic. Examine your old appointment data and get in touch with each person who missed an appointment.
Encouraging them to reschedule could be just the push they needed to get back into the healthcare system.
Get Patients More Involved in Their Healthcare
The MGMA recommends that healthcare providers do more to educate patients about their role in the decision making process. “Communicate that patients can weigh in on their medical options, ask any questions and create their own health goals.”
Another approach is to ask patients to craft a medical biography. Listing their various conditions and what medications they take is a great springboard to engage with them.
What do they envision for addressing these conditions? Is the current mixture of prescription drugs ideal, or do you need to have a conversation with the doctor about making some adjustments?
When you ask patients about their physical state, remember to also ask them for details about their mental state and emotions. A holistic approach will always be more engaging.
Reengaging Patients for a Better Tomorrow
It will take some time before things start to seem even halfway to normal. But in the meantime, it’s on all of us to make sure we do a better job of engaging with patients. They deserve the healthcare services you provide, and fear of being infected during the pandemic will not disappear overnight.
As you work to reengage with your patients this year, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the latest in revenue cycle management. It’s good to start with an introduction to the various options found in “The Top Features of Revenue Cycle Management Software.”
- Your medical organization is fully open again now or will be soon. Now your task is to reengage with patients to encourage them to return.
- Reminding patients about their options for telemedicine visits could be a good way to get some of them to transition out of coronavirus lockdowns.
- Contact patients who canceled appointments in the middle of the pandemic. Explain your enhanced safety precautions and invite them to take care of that unfinished business with the doctor now.
- Employ all communications channels, from Twitter and Facebook to email, newsletters and your website and blog to do outreach to patients.
- Asking patients to write a narrative of their medical history and medications is a great example of something you can do to reengage with them.
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About Stephen O'Connor
As a Director of Digital Marketing at Advanced Data Systems Corporation, Stephen spends his day's planning, writing, & designing resources for the modern healthcare professional. He has a strong affinity for snow crab legs, the ocean, and Rutgers Football.