Due to fears surrounding visiting a healthcare clinic during the coronavirus pandemic, these days patients are arriving at health systems sicker, with more advanced ailments than they otherwise would have if had they sought care earlier. With additional shutdowns occurring throughout the US, experts are concerned that the frequency and consequences of delayed care will only worsen. Health systems must communicate the precautions they have implemented to ensure the safety of patients and emphasize which of their services are still open. Communicating about the risks of putting off care through different media outlets, including HIPAA compliant email marketing, will be critical to the wellbeing of the communities you serve.
Mounting evidence that people are delaying care
According to a recent NRC Health survey, 53% of people have delayed care for themselves or someone in their household during the pandemic, and 60% of people think there is an elevated risk to contracting coronavirus when visiting a provider. According to a report from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP), emergency room visits declined by 42% at US hospitals during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 48% of Americans said they or a family member has skipped or delayed medical care because of the pandemic, and about one in 10 said their family member’s condition worsened as a result. As reported in The Washington Post, doctors are concerned that the pandemic has produced a silent sub-epidemic of people who need hospital care but are too fearful to come in. Many physicians and other healthcare providers worry that such a marked drop in patient visits will result in an increased number of serious, or even fatal, post-pandemic health complications.
Effects of postponing care on chronic diseases
Chronic disease affects six out of every ten adults in the United States. The decision to put off essential care poses additional risks for people living with chronic conditions. Reported claims have decreased across almost all chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease. In many cases, forgoing or even postponing regular treatments and therapy regimens can result in serious complications or even death. The CDC estimates that between 140,000-192,000 excess deaths have occurred in the US from February 1 through July 11. Many care providers worry that high-risk patients, particularly those living with chronic diseases, make up a significant portion of those excess deaths.
Increased cancer risks
The US National Cancer Institute models indicate there will be approximately 10,000 excess cancer deaths over the next few years due to postponed care. Some will be caused by not diagnosing a cancer until it has progressed to a more advanced stage. Some will be due to delays in supposedly “elective” surgeries to treat already-detected cancers. The lockdowns undoubtedly have saved many lives. But they will also cause an increase in avoidable deaths in ways that will only become apparent years afterwards.
Getting patients back into the care stream
Research has shown clearly that not only are people putting off necessary healthcare due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that this delay will cause both short term and long term detrimental health impacts. As a healthcare provider, it is important that you make your patients aware of the risks they run by not receiving treatment. One method you can use to communicate this message is Paubox Marketing, our HIPAA compliant email marketing solution. Paubox Marketing is the only HIPAA compliant email marketing product on the market that allows healthcare providers to send encrypted mass email messages which contain protected health information ( PHI) just like regular emails, directly to recipients’ email boxes with no extra steps. In addition, if you are a non-profit hospital or other health facility, FEMA will reimburse 75% of the cost of emergency protective measures (such as communication regarding general health and safety), meaning you can have most of the cost of Paubox Marketing covered.
What to include in your email marketing
Below we will delineate some examples of the types of information you should consider including in your email marketing to patients about the dangers of avoiding care. You should also make sure that you offer a way to get in touch with you if your email does not answer all of the questions a patient has. SEE ALSO: Healthcare Email Marketing Use Cases
How you're keeping people safe at your facility
Just because you are ready to open your doors doesn’t mean your patients are ready to come back. Many people are paralyzed by fear of entering a healthcare facility and are therefore willing to postpone care. Patients need to hear how health systems are keeping them safe, and they need to hear it often. They want to hear what precautions are being taken and what protocols are in place, including the details. Read this article for more information on what to communicate.
In March the Paubox team interviewed 14 of our customers about how they were using our products to communicate about COVID-19. A number of the healthcare providers we spoke with began to offer telehealth as an option to maintain a continuity of care while also respecting stay-at-home orders. Make sure your patients know all of the ways they can receive treatment from you during the ongoing health crisis and beyond. For folks who are uncomfortable to come to your facility in person, telemedicine can be a great way to avoid delaying care.
Time sensitive care that patients should not put offIt can be hard for patients to tell the difference between something that might get better on its own and something that needs treatment. Let people know the most common types of medically necessary procedures and lab tests that they should not postpone, such as:
- Childhood immunizations: It’s important to stay on schedule with vaccinations—even during COVID-19.
- Treatment for chronic conditions: Patients with chronic health conditions should maintain their treatment schedule as much as possible to avoid unnecessary complications.
- Help with extreme pain management: If pain becomes intense enough to seriously disrupt someone's day, that person should ideally seek care, even if virtually.
- Important medical screenings: Colonoscopies and mammograms are examples of screenings that can detect several medical conditions, many of them life threatening.
- Emergencies: Evidence is mounting that a large percentage of patients with heart attack or stroke symptoms are not seeking medical help. People experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms, or intense stomach or abdominal pain, should visit a doctor right away.
COVID-19 has upended our lives in countless ways, but we cannot let routine and essential medical care become another casualty of this pandemic. Reach out to your patients to make them aware of available care options. Assure them that physicians and other caregivers are closely following the guidelines put forth by state and local public health professionals to ensure that everyone is safe in their care, and let them know what types of conditions warrant treatment without delay.