The emergence of globally reaching COVID-19 concerns has led to healthcare providers re-evaluating their daily operations to prevent the virus from spreading. However, adapting to these changes – social distancing measures, managing the availability of PPE, and controlling patient flow – has caused significant disruption to patient care.
Noticeably, the changes to patient appointments and healthcare availability for most hospitals, general practices, and healthcare facilities, has caused apprehension for both healthcare professionals and patients.
How has COVID-19 Changed Patient Attitudes to Healthcare?
As news of the virus shifted into the public eye, governments across the world adjusted guidelines to contain it. The majority of them recommended that the general population avoid healthcare facilities unless absolutely necessary to control the spread of the virus, causing average patient footfall to lower.
Additionally, patients had concerns for their individual wellbeing too, and records display an increasing number of individuals actively avoided healthcare. Some countries reported a decrease in patients using hospital emergency facilities, and one study found that 22% of parents have avoided accessing healthcare for their children over COVID-19 concerns.
COVID-19 has also come at a time where healthcare is more patient-centric than ever. Managing patient engagement demands is a key priority for organisations, because patients seek more personalised, timely, and relevant healthcare treatments and plans. Yet, the disruption caused by the pandemic put an immediate halt to these expected day-to-day patient-centric services.
For healthcare providers, this has created a rapid increase in demand for fast and intuitive healthcare management alternatives to overcome the barriers of COVID-19. This allows them to continue delivering the level of treatment that patients not only want, but expect, in contemporary healthcare.
How are Healthcare Providers Adapting to COVID-19?
The availability of telemedicine software and digital patient engagement platforms has assisted the majority of healthcare providers through the challenges of COVID-19. This includes everything from conducting virtual appointments via video conferencing software to distributing vital healthcare information using cloud based patient engagement platforms. It's likely that most patients awaiting healthcare have received a digital communication, appointment, or update in recent months from their provider. Then, patients who require physical consultations or care are prioritised for face-to-face appointments, effectively staggering patient flow within the physical premises of the practice.
The technology that enables these measures lets healthcare institutions better manage patient flow, engagement, care plans, and information distribution during the height of social distancing. However, as some countries begin to successfully reduce the rate of infection, many healthcare services are resuming with sufficient health, safety, and prevention measures in place.
Hospitals and GP practices will be adhering to strict government guidelines to keep personnel and patients safe. What additional signs should you be aware of for reassurance that you, and the people around you, are safe at your GP?
1. Good Communication with Patients
During a global pandemic, many patients can be unsure of the correct actions to take. For example, some patients might not realise that they must wear PPC equipment, such as a face covering or mask, to visit their GP. Or, they might not know if a future appointment is taking place.
To overcome this, the general practice manager should implement an effective communication system that delivers essential messaging to patients in a timely, clear, and concise manner. A patient engagement platform allows organisations to enhance patient engagement by sending targeted SMS and email messaging, direct to a patient personal devices, so any changes to COVID-19 safety regulations are seen by the entire patient list at the exact right time. Or, send direct communications to specific patients when and if it’s needed.
2. A Safe Check-in Process
Sitting in a crowded waiting room with other patients could increase the risk of further spreading COVID-19. Even if patients aren’t displaying symptoms, your GP should reduce the risk by maintaining adequate social distancing measures between patients so that potential respiratory droplets that are responsible for transmission can’t physically reach another patient.
Many GPs now ask patients for their car identification before arrival and collecting individual patients from outside the practice. This helps them avoid crowded waiting rooms and streamline check-in. For busier practices, mobile check-in, detailed wayfinding systems that control the flow of footfall direction, and regular sanitation such as antibacterial hand gel, has helped guide patients during the pandemic.
3. Strict Hygiene Standards
While it’s easy to assume that good hygiene is standard for all GPs, larger practices with greater patient footfall might find it more difficult to adhere to regular cleaning at every touchpoint throughout the day, yet alone at a consistent standard.
GP’s should be ensuring they monitor patient flow and adjust the intake of patients based on their own capabilities to regularly clean patient areas. For example, a healthcare provider should have the resources to clean the examination room space effectively between doctor’s appointments, and before the next appointment. General practice managers or health and safety conductors can achieve this by staggering appointments with sufficient gaps of time in between, giving healthcare professionals time to clean and reducing face-to-face contact between patients. Ensure your GP takes this measure or has a system in place to control patient flow.
Keep Patients Safe and Informed
Ultimately, healthcare practices should maintain clear and informative contact with patients. To do this, many are now using patient check-in software or patient engagement platforms to manage patient flow, patient access, and information distribution from a single, cloud-based dashboard.Back to blog