Encouraging Patients to Seek Non-COVID-19 Care: 6 Tips

Stay-at-home restrictions are lifting, but the fear of getting COVID-19 or spreading it to others is tangible. This fear is holding many people from seeing a doctor for medical issues such as injuries, chronic conditions and even emergencies.

As marketers, we can allay these concerns with some tweaks to online messaging. Here are 6 tips for how to communicate with patients about non-COVID-19 care at your facility.

Tip #1: Move Beyond Basic COVID-19 Information

At this point, consumers likely know what COVID-19 is and how to lower their risk. Now, they want to know what it means for their ability to seek other types of care.

Consumers likely know what #COVID19 is & how to lower their risk. Now, they want to know what it means for their ability to seek other types of care. Click To Tweet

Can a patient with diabetes meet with their doctor? Can a woman get a Pap test or mammogram? What about a physical? Anticipate customers’ questions and provide helpful information affects whether people feel ready to leave the safety of their home for a doctor’s appointment.

Create text, visual and video messaging to address your audience’s most pressing COVID-19-related needs, including what services are available and how you’re keeping patients safe.

Tip #2: Timestamp COVID-19 content

Show users that you’re staying current with COVID-19 guidelines. Precautions and best practices continue to evolve, and most users know this. Adding a publication date at the top of COVID-19 pages (and changing it when you make updates) lets users know your system is staying on top of the situation.

Tip #3: Explain How and When Patients Can Reach You

Seeking care in this phase of the epidemic is a new frontier, and many patients don’t know what to expect. Each state has its timeline for opening medical practices and in some cases, guidelines differ by medical specialty. Your patients have likely been putting off care appointments and are curious about how much longer they should wait.

  • If your practice is open, let users know. Here too, timestamping your content is crucial. Patients want to know, in light of COVID-19, when can they see a doctor? And if your practice has limited hours, update your content to address whether they can speak with a nurse or physician outside of those hours.
  • If your practice is not able to see patients, this is helpful to know, too. To ease some of their concerns, include messaging about how they can reach physicians for urgent questions or prescription refill requests.

Tip #4: Explain Care Options — And Help Patients Navigate Them

You may offer more care options than you did during pre-COVID-19 times. Perhaps you’ve ramped up telehealth services and other virtual appointment options. While technology is giving patients more ways to connect with physicians, people might be feeling overwhelmed.

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Patients may be wondering: Can a sudden rash be treated via telehealth? Or do I need an in-person appointment? Can nagging symptoms of a previous injury be evaluated over the phone? Which non-COVID-19 symptoms require a trip to the emergency room?

Let patients know they are not alone in determining which care option is best for their needs. Include messaging that they are welcome to call and ask for assistance when in doubt.

Tip #5: Remind Patients That It’s Safe to Come to the Emergency Room

With so much media coverage about COVID-19’s burden on ERs, many people are thinking twice about seeking emergency care. But by now, hospitals have strategies for isolating COVID-19 cases and alleviating strain on their system.

Update your emergency department page to let patients know they can and should seek services in the ER. Share some of the precautions you’re taking to isolate patients with COVID-19 — even in the waiting room.

For instance, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has a dedicated page explaining the safety precautions they are taking at their ERs and Urgent Care centers.

Tip #6: Add or Revise “Planning Your Visit” Content

Visiting a clinic or hospital is a much different experience than it used to be. Help patients prepare by describing new policies in a “planning your visit” section on your website. This section is also a great place to describe the extra steps you’re taking to help patients have a safe experience.

Visiting a clinic or hospital is a different experience than it used to be. Help patients prepare by describing new policies in a “planning your visit” section on your website. Click To Tweet
  • Explain what to expect: Patients are probably anxious about coming to a care facility, but you can defuse some of this with dedicated content. Let them know they’ll need to wear a mask and undergo COVID-19 symptom screening upon arrival. Explain how you’re regularly disinfecting high-traffic areas.
  • Address visitor restrictions: Restricting visitors can add stress to an already difficult situation. If there are steps your team can take to reduce this burden, like periodic calls from nurses to a patient’s loved ones or options for video calls, share this information on your visitor pages. Cleveland Clinic updated their “Planning Your Visit” content to address visitor restrictions and any concerns potential patients and their families may have during the pandemic.

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About Laura Bloom

Laura Bloom, MBA

A 20-plus-year veteran of the healthcare industry, Laura’s previous work includes technical writing and project management roles at UnitedHealth Group, WebMD and a federally funded quality improvement organization. Laura has a passion for helping consumers make informed decisions about their care, which is why she became a content writer.... More >