The effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic have strained the healthcare industry in a myriad of ways. Where some hospitals found themselves dealing with capacity issues and feeling overwhelmed, other smaller practices that rely on elective procedures were forced to shut down completely.
Although we are slowly starting to regain at least some sense of normalcy nationwide, the implications of this pandemic will continue to have a profound impact on the ways healthcare providers interact with their patients for the foreseeable future.
Healthcare practices are actively searching for ways to communicate with patients that they can return safely and even be seen remotely if necessary. During these trying times, empowering patients with the information they need to stay healthy is more important than ever before. By educating and reassuring your patients, you can help reduce the spread of the virus and hospital admissions at the same time.
This is a best-case scenario for everyone, but how do you bring it to life? Here are some ideas on how your practice can empower your patients amidst COVID-19.
1. Educate patients on emerging topics digitally
Educating your patients on important and emerging topics is the best way to engage and empower them, especially during a health crisis like a global pandemic. By sharing information as it becomes available, you can arm patients to make the best decisions possible in terms of their health.
An informed patient is an involved and empowered patient. After all, to make truly informed decisions, we need access to relevant, timely information. Providing access to the right material at the right time in the right places will increase your patients’ desire to take a proactive role in decisions regarding their care. A patient portal is a great opportunity to educate patients digitally, which is of obvious importance during times like these.
2. Communicate with patients via their preferred methods
Another great way to empower your patients during tough times is to communicate with them via the methods they prefer most. As a provider, it’s important to be mindful of patient preferences for communication. For example, although some patients are more likely to prefer digital communication methods like messages on a portal, text messages, social media updates, and email, others may still opt for a phone call.
And it’s not only about the methods, but also the topic of conversation. A survey found that 45 percent of patients wish that patient-provider communications included conversations about lifestyle and wellness. Engage with patients on the topics that matter most to them, whether it be COVID-19 or overall health and wellness.
3. Leverage telehealth services
These days, telehealth and other virtual care options are all the rage. As a result of COVID-19, an increasing number of care providers are introducing telehealth services for their patients. With shelter-in-place and social distancing guidelines to abide by, telehealth offers patients a safe, convenient way to access care.
Recent reports show that COVID-19 is changing perceptions and reshaping opinions about telehealth. In fact, two-thirds of survey respondents say COVID-19 has increased their willingness to try telehealth both now and in the future. Not only is this important for navigating the pandemic, but also for expanding services to rural, underserved areas where care isn’t readily accessible.
And that’s not all—as a result of the pandemic, telehealth coverage policies have expanded to accommodate patients. Telehealth services are now eligible under Medicare reimbursement policies.
4. Offer access to self-service tools
In this day and age, consumers rely on self-service tools to do everything, from paying bills to booking travel. Likewise, patients want and expect the freedom to check medical records, book appointments, pay medical bills, and ask providers questions. Offering self-service tools via a portal or similar technology is a great way to empower your patients despite uncertain times.
As a healthcare provider, you’re in a unique position to reassure patients in your community and arm them with the information they need to navigate a health crisis like COVID-19. By using healthcare technology and taking proactive measures to improve the patient experience, you can engage and improve patient empowerment —during the pandemic and beyond.