Proper Messaging Key for Return to In-person Patient Visits


We know COVID-19 restrictions and precautions are still in place, but most states are taking gradual steps to increase various activities that were disrupted by the pandemic.

Healthcare providers had to put a hard stop to elective procedures in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Hospitals focused on treating COVID patients and emergencies, and specialty providers – if they could – stayed open to treat urgent and emergent cases only and shifted to using telehealth in record numbers.

In most states, elective procedures started ramping up again toward the end of May. Healthcare providers slowly began scheduling more in-person appointments based on need and demand.

Patients are still cautious about returning to medical facilities while some COVID concerns still linger. That underscores the importance of updating your messaging, marketing and advertising accordingly, so people know it’s safe to visit and get the care they need. Read on for some best practices on how to do that.

Stay on top of trends

Morning Consult is doing a great job following trends related to how consumers feel about returning to various places and activities. I found them through a few COVID-related webinars I joined the past few months.

In May, they reported 39% of adults said they were most likely to visit their primary doctors for non-COVID treatment over, say, specialty providers. And 62% of people were unlikely to visit a hospital during the pandemic for non-COVID reasons.

That data was collected at the end of April. We know things have changed rapidly – weekly and even daily in some cases – so I’m curious to see an updated version of that poll, especially as their more recent reports have found people feel safer to going out to eat, on vacation and shopping.

Communicate often

With more patients returning to your facilities, tell them how to prepare for appointments. Answers to these questions should be easy to find:

  • Do I have to wear a mask?
  • What’s your visitor policy?
  • Do I have to stay in my car until my appointment time?

Many organizations have done a great job updating patients and the community about enhanced safety protocols that have been in place since the pandemic started. Things like hand sanitizing, extra cleaning, moving waiting room chairs further apart, and checking temperatures and symptoms before entering facilities.

It’s OK to keep pushing those messages, especially as more people will be in your buildings. Because we don’t all have the same access to technology and consume health information in the same ways, make sure you’re updating key message points across as many platforms as possible. At minimum, that includes your website, social media platforms and patient portal.

Consider sending letters to existing patients or an e-blast with updated information. You can also update your advertising and your digital platforms with reopening protocols. It’s also important to add these details to phone messages and to continue following up with direct phone calls to patients – again, because not everyone accesses information the same way.

Understand that there is still fear and anxiety about returning to healthcare facilities for care, so keep prioritizing telehealth messaging, too. I’ve got my first in-person doctor’s appointment this week, and the healthcare system sent me a text message to confirm with some language about what to do if I didn’t feel comfortable coming to them. We say it a lot, but there’s no time like the present to evaluate and improve the patient experience. Keep your patients top of mind by updating them often about changing protocols so their visits go as smoothly as possible for them and for you and your staff. Our Chartwell healthcare team can help you deliver the right messages and reignite your practice moving forward.