Compassionate. Caring. Committed. How Labs Encourage Patients Amid COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the globe. As of May 7, 2020, the US has the most confirmed cases. It's a time of uncertainty and anxiety for patients who are worried about their physical health and financial futures. With this article, we're going to address ways we can communicate with patients, ease their worries and provide encouragement during COVID-19.
From modern technology to more traditional techniques, we'll cover ways to spread your message of compassion and caring here. We'll also get into the meaning of a message itself — how to write positive and inspiring bits for patients, and how to reach out to them verbally, even while we're practicing social distancing.
The Value of a Positive Message During Times of Crisis
It's no secret that everyone is deeply concerned about COVID-19 right now. While lab staff is currently over-employed, patients have a different experience.
- Your patients may have lost their jobs.
- They're worried about their health and that of their family members.
- They may not have access to PPE, which makes them nervous about their errands like grocery shopping.
- Panic-buying has led to concerns about their ability to feed their families.
- Older patients, in particular, are suffering from issues related to isolation like depression, sleeplessness, and blood pressure problems.
- Changes in their social habits, like an inability to attend worship services or visit the barbershop, have made them uneasy.
It becomes clear that we need to reassure patients at every opportunity. The best messages will be positive, community-based ideas. Lab managers can promote a "we're in this together" message to patients and communities, both in the lobby and online.
For lab management and administrators, it's important to acknowledge the ongoing marketing value of this sort of message too. Your goal isn't only encouragement during COVID-19 for patient and community benefit, but also to position your organization as a caring, community resource for laboratory services.
The Science Behind Messages of Encouragement During COVID-19
There are two types of messages lab patients respond to during "normal" times. We're either helping them to reduce risks — by reminding them to wear their seat belts or encouraging them to quit smoking, or we're helping them seek goals — by achieving a healthy weight, or reasonable blood sugar levels for instance.
Yet, a research team recently discovered that communication during a crisis works differently. While there was little difference in the preferences of promotion-oriented people (those seeking goals), the research suggests that during an emergency, prevention-oriented people (risk-reducers) responded better to promotion-oriented communication.
In other words, the most effective messages for your patients during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely be focused on positive community messages. Reminding your patients to wash hands and disinfect surfaces is always a good idea, but don't make these the focus points of your communication.
Avoid negative messages that sound like:
- 500 new patients in our county yesterday
- Our lab has detected 90% of the patients in this city
You should generally avoid statistics and numbers entirely.
Instead, consider these starting points:
- "Our lab is committed to your health."
- "We're working on weekends because we care about patients."
- "Our patients matter, so we're hiring more staff."
- "The team here is dedicated to your care."
Or the simple, clear message that "We're all in it together."
Using Technology to Enlighten and Encourage Patients during COVID-19
Thankfully, the US population is better educated and has more access to technology than ever before. We're connected through social media and devices, and we're spending more time online during the pandemic. This makes it easy to keep them encouraged during COVID-19 with quality information and positive messages.
So let's take an inventory of your online presence. There's a solid chance your lab has one or more of the following:
- A website and / or a blog
- A Facebook page
- A Twitter account●Instagram
- Skype, FaceTime or some other video messaging platform
These are all great ways to deliver your hopeful messages of committed, caring services. But not every patient has access to these platforms or even regular access to the internet. So how do we reach those folks?
Let's think about your patients' demographics and how that affects ways to deliver your positive message.
Demographics — Who Are Your Patients?
We can assume the bulk of your lab business is serving the older patients. Beyond that, you need to consider their languages and literacy levels. No matter their age or literacy, encouragement during COVID-19 should be:
- Understandable and easy to read
- Limited to one or two sentences
- Never written in medical terminology
- Available in English and the patient's first language if it's not English
- Visible in large, clear fonts
Once you've crafted a positive message, there are plenty of non-internet media to spread it. Depending on your community and your budget, you might prefer:
- Paid radio spots or public service announcements (PSAs). Know that every radio station in the US is required to demonstrate a commitment to public health and safety, so they broadcast public service announcements throughout the year, and to keep detailed records of them.
- Television commercials
- Print advertising in your local newspaper
- Banners, flyers or staff-made signage outside the location and in the lobby
Or get creative! If you've thought of a way to reach your patients that we haven't addressed here, let us know. We'd love to add it to this blog.
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