We know that as part of the healthcare industry, your business has taken the brunt of COVID 19’s overwhelm. With unprecedented numbers of patients, the reality of equipment shortage, and the new normal of a constant barrage of phone calls, it is easy to feel completely overwhelmed by the challenges that this pandemic is posing; and you’re on the front lines. 

While the onslaught feels unending, healthcare services across the country are implementing a number of tools and strategies to help stem the tide and protect themselves and their workers. Small, but significant changes—like switching to messaging or using automation to answer FAQs—can make a world of difference in keeping your patients safe and giving you and your personnel the relief you need. With the right tools, you can give your business the fighting edge it needs to continue providing the exemplary service you are known for—even in the face of a worldwide pandemic. 

1. Encourage patients to self-assess before calling.

By using a feature like Webchat to automate answers to FAQs, you can significantly reduce the amount of time (and effort) your internal team spends answering the same questions repeatedly. You can also point patients to an online self-assessment tool, such as this one provided by the CDC. Certain web chat features even allow patients to self-assess their symptoms. Using a chat widget with configurable scripts, you can use if-then logic to ask questions about their symptoms and determine if they need to be seen before they call, message, or show up in person.

2. Text to maintain social-distancing and patient safety.

Implement a tool that many facilities are using to contact patients with appointments and ask them to wait in their cars and text the front desk when they arrive. Using text, you can easily let patients know when you are ready for them to be seen, making text your new waiting room to keep patients safe. You can even use secure messaging that is HIPAA compliant to text patients any private information about their visit (i.e. test results). 

3. Update patients consistently with the latest information.

Use automated, bulk text messages to regularly communicate changes to protocol, procedures, supply, and more. You might also consider sending brief, helpful tips on how to stay safe along with messages of hope to reassure clients and ease stress where possible. 

4. Play calming, peaceful music in your office and waiting room.

Yes, this is a Titanic move. But the mood you set with music can go a long way to calm your patients and staff, improving the experience for both parties by making a normally stressful environment more peaceful. And when music can influence heart rate, breathing rate, stress levels, and release neurotransmitters, it is a factor that is important to consider. Try a zen playlist or other classical music to see what feels healing for your staff and patients. 

5. Monitor the mental health and wellbeing of your staff.

With the overwhelming demands of the pandemic, mental health among medical professionals is increasingly becoming a concern. You can assist your staff by strategizing a stress appraisal and coping framework along with preparing psychological first aid. Consider taking time to hold brief group therapy sessions and regular check-ins throughout the day. A good way to facilitate this might be assigning each member of staff a partner to do a 1:1 check-in twice a week. Check out this helpful US Department of Veteran Affairs page on managing healthcare workers’ COVID 19-associated stress.

6. Avoid over-consuming corona-virus related media.

While keeping up with the latest medical updates and protocol changes is essential, the CDC and APA warn that consuming too much corona-virus related media can actually undermine mental health. Where possible, try to cut down on media-consumption and stick to fundamental sources to protect your own mental health and that of others. 

7. Take breaks.

Taking time to sharpen the axe can seem bizarrely counterproductive, especially in an industry as overwhelmed as healthcare. But taking a few brief, well-timed breaks during the day increases your productivity and allows you to be more efficient, and more present with your patients. More importantly, it helps to maintain your mental health. Don’t give in to guilt imposed by thoughts that you should be working around the clock. Take time to rejuvenate and attend to yourself. 

8. Encourage an atmosphere free of stigma and criticism.

Encouraging a nonjudgmental and accepting atmosphere is crucial to the wellbeing of your staff. You can begin by setting an example in taking breaks yourself. You can also lead a team sync with your personnel each morning where you reiterate the essentiality of taking care of yourself and discuss the importance of avoiding harmful thoughts like:

  • “It would be selfish to take time to rest.”
  • “Others are working around the clock, so should I.”
  • “The needs of patients are more important than the needs of caregivers.”

9. Provide access to free counseling services for your staff.

Some businesses are bringing in trained psychologists to check-in with their staff, while others are referring their personnel to free resources like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration that maintains a 24/7 distress helpline, as well as an app

10. Consider involving local medical students who want to volunteer.

While there are restrictions on how many unlicensed volunteers can help, many medical students are rising to help healthcare facilities manage the tide—from fielding patient calls to taking basic medical histories over the phone. Consider reaching out to organizations who can help you get in touch with medical students who are looking for ways to help. 

And most of all, stay calm. You can do this. We thank you for the service you are providing at great personal risk, and know that it is not easy. But with the right tools and resources, you can lessen the load and increase convenience, safety, and confidence—leading to faster recovery for everyone. 

Podium equips small businesses across the country with the tools they need to adapt in wake of COVID 19. 

We have used Podium to ask people to reschedule or wait in their cars until we can see them. We use it to text them when they can come into our office. This helps us to reduce further exposure to patients and staff as we work through this crisis.

Lorrie Carpenter, Office Manager | Choctaw Family Medicine

Learn more about how Podium can give you the tools you need by watching this demo, or filling out the form below.

Bryan Oram
Bryan Oram AVP of Healthcare Enterprise Sales

Bryan Oram is a Healthcare professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects healthcare businesses with their patients.

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