Bringing Patients Back: Patient Experience During a Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, patients’ willingness to seek in-person medical care may best be described as lukewarm. While not all healthcare needs are urgent, delaying care can have serious consequences. In fact, a group of healthcare organizations have banded together to launch a public education campaign encouraging people to “Stay six feet away from others, stay close with your doctor.”
For dermatology practices to successfully emerge from this pandemic, patients must feel comfortable enough to walk through the office door. And, once the patients are in the office, any lingering COVID-induced anxiety must be alleviated. How a practice manages the patient experience is more important than ever.
Safety and Staff
From masks to physical distancing to sanitizing high-touch surfaces, there is no shortage of COVID-19 safety information. Still, adapting the CDC guidelines for a dermatology practice takes some special consideration. To help its affiliated practices mitigate risk, QualDerm’s Chief Medical Officer, the Quality Council and leadership team worked together to develop a 48-point Safety First Checklist. Next, the checklist was reviewed by each of QualDerm’s Regional Joint Operating Committees so the protocols could be adapted to best meet local guidelines and needs.
A safety checklist, regardless of how expansive, is useless unless the staff is trained to execute it properly and consistently. QualDerm’s operations team worked with each affiliated practice to ensure all staff members were well versed with the safety procedures and confident in their ability to carry out those duties. Further, the practice staffs’ knowledge of and ability to communicate COVID-19 safety information was a critical element in helping to ease patients’ anxiety.
Talk and Listen
Uncertainty is a hallmark of this pandemic. Regularly communicating with patients helps them feel more comfortable and lets them know what to expect when they have an in-person or telehealth appointment.
As part of its COVID-19 safety strategy, QualDerm enhanced its patient communication plan. Customized e-newsletters were sent to all affiliated practices’ patients bi-monthly. The e-newsletters highlighted the practices’ safety procedures, provided updates on available services and shared other healthcare and practice information. QualDerm also worked with each affiliated practice to increase their social media efforts in order to communicate COVID-19 safety information and to help boost patient volume.
Operating under the COVID-19 restrictions was going well from an internal perspective, yet QualDerm leaders understood that external perception is reality. Therefore, the company conducted a network-wide COVID-19 Patient Perception Safety Survey. Over 5,000 patients responded, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The survey showed 92% found QualDerm’s safety precautions appropriate and reassuring, and 94% had confidence that the practice staffs were knowledgeable about and would manage the new safety procedures well. The survey also provided ideas on how to further enhance the patient experience. Based on respondents’ feedback, QualDerm immediately began working to enhance various procedures, such as reducing the amount of wait time, to help patients feel more comfortable when seeking dermatology care.
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