We can all agree on one thing: nobody likes being sick. That’s especially true in these uncertain times. Even as the country begins to open up and return to “normal,” patients with COVID-19 are still being quarantined. There are now nearly a million COVID-19 cases in the United States — but the hospitalization rate is far lower, meaning that hundreds of thousands of patients who have tested positive are currently quarantined in their homes. It’s vital that providers maintain a strong relationship with patients during this difficult time.
As healthcare providers, we are on the front lines of ensuring our patients – whether in our office or in their homes – receive the highest level of care. That’s a challenge, of course, given the reality of the pandemic and the growing obstacles we face as a result: increased patient load, longer hours and reduced care teams. It’s time for providers to adopt innovative new technologies that allow them to stay connected to their vulnerable, isolated patients in a way that fits into their workflows.
First, check out this data report that reveals how COVID-19 is impacting healthcare providers across the nation. Then, read on to learn five ways you can stay connected with your patients.
1. Automate patient communication
Adopting patient-centric technology can allow you to easily automate regular check-ins with your quarantined patients. For example, you can ask them questions to determine whether symptoms are progressing — and two-way messaging allows patients to get any questions of their own answered. Using this approach to engage with those patients can help prevent unnecessary hospitalizations while ensuring those who need acute care are triaged quickly. It also gives patients peace of mind by helping them feel more connected to their provider.
To improve access and participation rates, you can leverage a solution that allows you to automatically send pre-screen forms and information via text message. Here is an example of a screening form that you can send patients so that they can quickly determine their risk level for contracting COVID-19 and, if necessary, schedule a test.
Mobile-first communication is the best way to stay connected with patients at every step of their care journey, and can easily be done by sending mass-text messages to every patient under your care. These messages can contain screenings and useful information, or they can deliver patients instructions on how to quickly get in touch with your clinic.
2. Target specific patient populations
Of the entire patient population under your care (or the clinic’s), there will be subsets of patients who can and should be “grouped” together, such as patients with specific conditions, those in a particular age demographic, or those speaking a certain language.
Within your patients who are in isolation, determine as specifically as you can what subsets they fall into — this will allow you to tailor your messaging to every patient population to ensure they are all getting the information they need to best manage their health.
For those with high-risk chronic illnesses, for example, the messages you send to them should be geared towards their unique risks and how to care for themselves based on those risks. They should also include a phone number that patients can call in the event that their symptoms quickly escalate and they require emergency care.
If you have patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms but who do not have pre-existing conditions, your messages should be tailored to daily monitoring of the disease and its progression, ways they can treat their symptoms, and how to keep others in their homes safe and healthy.
3. Be your patients’ source of truth
Right now, people are scared, especially those who are under strict quarantine. As providers, we need to be a calm and steady voice of support as they work to either contain the spread or recover from the coronavirus. That means sending new information as it’s available from sources like the CDC or WHO, updates about the virus in your community, reminders about prevention and ways to treat the virus’ symptoms.
Now more than ever, patients are turning to their providers for answers in an uncertain time. Make sure you’re delivering on that need by constantly communicating with them and leveraging the technology at your disposal to do so. One topic that’s confused many patients is how to distinguish between quarantine, social distancing, and total isolation. Here’s one example of a useful chart you can send patients to clear up misconceptions and ensure that they are practicing the form of social distancing that makes the most sense for them. (Credit: UT Austin)
4. Over communicate — always
The best thing providers can do is give our patients something to expect from us – whether that’s daily or weekly communications — or something in between. The reality is, people are going to go looking for information if they don’t have it, which opens the door for inaccurate messages about critical things like prevention, symptoms and treatment.
Therefore, given how quickly everything is moving and how all-encompassing the topic is, I recommend engaging with patients as frequently as possible. Providers have the responsibility to guarantee their patients access to timely and accurate information directly from a trusted source (examples of messages can be found here).
5. Leverage telehealth visits for virtual check-ins
The novel coronavirus is “novel” for a reason — it’s new and carries with it many unknowns and unanswered questions. Regardless, as providers, we can typically determine whether our patients are in need of an examination or hospitalization with a quick conversation. As we know, COVID-19 causes severe shortness of breath and fever, which can be mistaken by an individual as something else. With a quick video chat, you can assess whether patients are in need of further intervention. Without those check-ins, infected patients could end up delaying a visit to the ER to their detriment.
Consider scheduling a block of time each day when you can check in virtually with a few patients who are sick and at home. This will help you keep a close eye on each person’s progression, enabling you to proactively identify concerns as they arise.
Our virtual visits text patients a link to their appointment with customizable reminder cadences. When it’s time for the virtual visit, patients simply click the link and they are in the virtual session with their provider. We designed the platform to be as seamless as possible for every patient, and we think you’ll love it. Click here to learn more or request a demonstration.
We know that this is uncharted territory for every healthcare provider, and at Luma Health, we’re committed to helping you navigate the pandemic.
Here are three resources I think you’ll find incredibly useful:
2. ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: Telehealth Amid COVID-19: What You Need to Know
3. ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: How to Survive and Thrive During COVID-19
4. INFOGRAPHIC: The five stages of COVID-19
Please take care of yourself and of your patients during this difficult time, and remember that we are here to partner with you and to help in any way we can.