What we’ve learned helping practices with their patient communication strategy around COVID-19

 

At Vital Interaction, we automate medical practice workflows because we believe it’s essential that care teams everywhere have more time to focus on patients. Our platform offers powerful message delivery options that allow you to be in control when communicating with patients, providers, and staff. 

 

Given the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), we would like to offer insights that we’ve learned while helping our partners, practices, and hospitals communicate with their patients, as well as staff, to protect them from the Coronavirus and other dangerous illnesses.

 

During this time of uncertainty, it’s critical that all practices have the resources they need to engage their patient population, actively manage communication, and appointment follow up with their patients at a time when they need it most. Our goal is that the information in this blog post will help provide your practice valuable resources, points of reference, recommendations and workflows that will save time, help your practice help patients, and ultimately save lives.

 

Observations

 

We have noticed our customers taking around 5 different approaches to message sending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

 

  • Adjusting current automated message verbiage, such as appointment reminders.
  • Adding a new automated, pre or post-appointment, message to the current messaging cadence.
  • Manually sending out a one-time informative message using our bulk message tool.
  • Manually sending out special messages on a daily or weekly schedule.
  • Canceling specific appointments and rescheduling them after the pandemic has subsided or after the patient has been cleared of COVID-19.

 

Things to consider when choosing how to send messages to your patients.

  • What is your current policy for seeing sick patients? Especially patients who present with COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing or respiratory issues?  
  • We strongly suggest taking a look at your policies and procedures related to universal precaution and infection control as well as how your practice will respond to a patient or staff member who tests positive for the coronavirus.
  • How will patients most likely receive messages from your practice?
  • Can you easily revert messaging back as needed, or will it be a permanent change?

 

Recommendations

 

  • Document the changes so they can easily be removed or changed once the additional messaging or communication is no longer necessary.
  • Consider how your scheduling policies may adapt during this period and how your staff can use Vital Interaction to manage the work.
  • If you have not done so already, begin creating automated safety nets using the power of the Vital Interaction automated list building tool so that you don’t lose track of patients that need critical follow-up, care for chronic conditions or treatment that requires subsequent appointments.
  • It’s important to ensure patients who have canceled get rescheduled once the pandemic has subsided or when your practice is ready to see those patients. The list building tool will be able to automatically reach back out to patients using criteria that you define like canceled, not rescheduled or no show reactivations.
  • Every practice that is able to, look at implementing a telehealth solution that will allow you to see patients for certain types of appointments remotely.  

 

Here are a few ways to make messaging adjustments to enhance your patient communication around COVID-19 using the Vital Interaction platform:

 

Adjusting Existing Messages / Adding New Automated Messages to the Cadence

  • Make an addendum to your current Appointment Reminder messages or a New Pre Appointment Message
    • If your practice still has scheduled appointments but you want to advise patients on when they should/shouldn’t come in for an appointment, simply make a change to your outgoing messages. 
    • Within 24-hours, Vital Interaction can make any edits to outgoing messages.
    • VI Support Document Link: View Message Associations

 

Manually Sending out Messages in Bulk

  • Send a bulk message to your organization and/or patients
    • Vital Interaction’s Bulk Sending Tool is a quick and convenient way to upload a list of cell phone numbers and email addresses which will allow you to send a message of your design to as many as 100,000 people in a single campaign.
    • Build a recipient list for the patients you need to communicate with.  Consider filtering by demographic and/or diagnosis to focus on the most vulnerable patients in your practice.
    • VI Support Document Link: Bulk Sending Tool

 

Canceling appointments and rescheduling them

  • Cancel appointments with special messaging
    • If appointments need to be canceled, our Group Message Tool can be used for just that, with ready-to-go messages that can be sent to patients scheduled with any future appointment, provider, or facility. 
    • VI Support Document Link: Group Messages

 

Manually sending out messages on a daily or weekly schedule

  • Send a Custom Message via the Group Message Tool
    • Add a message about your policies/precautions and manually select appointments that should receive the message.  
    • This is a manual task that allows you great flexibility and complete control over when to deliver your message and when to stop the campaign.
    • Prepare your own Custom Message for email, text, and/or IVR delivery.  VI Support Document Link: How To Send Quick Messages

 

The following are some examples of messaging we’ve seen being used by practices:

 

“If you are over 60 years old, or have a chronic medical condition (diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease), immunosuppressed or cancer we recommend you postpone your appointment for a few weeks. Please call to reschedule.”

 

“Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a measure to protect yourself and others, if you have respiratory symptoms, fever and/or if you have recently traveled internationally please first see your primary care doctor or local emergency room. Once you’ve been medically cleared of COVID-19 we can help you reschedule your appointment. Thank you.”

 

“Have you traveled out of the country in the past 14 days or have come in contact with someone with a confirmed case of the Coronavirus? If so, please contact our office before you present for your appointment”

 

“NOTE: We encourage everyone in our community to take steps to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Emerging information regarding this virus is updated regularly by the CDC. If you are having symptoms of a cold, flu or the coronavirus (fever, cough and/or shortness of breath), we ask you to call our office to postpone your appointment. There will be no cancellation fees at this time. And, please do not bring additional people (ie children) with you to your visit. There is no higher priority than the safety of our patients and our staff.”

 

We’ll go the extra mile for you

 

With the rapid spread of coronavirus, we’ve found that our customers need to reach their patients quickly and reliably now more than ever. Every day we try to go the extra mile to use our unique gifts and knowledge to help, whatever situation may arise.  Our goal remains to free up valuable time for providers and their staff by automating time-consuming tasks so that you can focus on what matters most, your patients.

 

As a result of the outbreak, so far we’ve updated over 50% of our customers’ patient messaging to reflect changes within the practice regarding coronavirus, with a turn around in under a day in all cases and in a few minutes for most.

 

Many of our customers were able to make quick changes themselves using our platform tools, while others asked a few questions and we were quickly able to help make the changes they needed. We’ve also assisted many of our practices with huge email and text message blasts to their entire patient population regarding the virus and how their practice will handle it.

 

We hope you’ve found this post helpful. Let us know if there is anything we can do during this time of uncertainty to support you, your patients or your team. Please email support@vitalinteraction.com to open a support ticket and we’ll be happy to do everything that we can for you. Most of you who interact with us know that we truly care and that we’re always here to help.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

The Vital Interaction Team

 

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Comments
  1. Vital has been amazing with their service and willingness to help especially in this critical situation. We were able to reach our patients by both modifying our patient reminders and using the bulk sending tool! If as a practice you need the tools to reach your patients effectively and efficiently this is the company for you. Thank you all for keeping your customers needs first, we really appreciate it!

  2. We have really counted on your expertise during this pandemic. Your responsiveness has been fantastic. Keep up the great work! Thanks for all you are doing to keep our staff and patients safe.

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