Communicating through the reopening/reactivating process
Across the United States, governors are easing restrictions for business closures. While including physical therapy practices were often declared essential, many experience severe patient loss or simply closed temporarily. And while APTA is encouraging clinics to take CDC guidance into careful consideration, communicating with your patients is key. Each PT practice has a responsibility to inform their patients about opening dates, new safety precautions, and options for those who don’t feel comfortable seeking in-person therapy.
When discussing unfolding events, the method and presentation of this information are just as important. Physical therapists found success in educating their patients solely with the facts necessary to continue their physical therapy treatment – avoiding political and medical bias. This way, both new or existing patients are equipped with pertinent information required to make wise decisions when choosing to receive initial evaluations or following in-person PT treatment plans.
So how can you communicate effectively with your patients about the upcoming changes?
In this article, we’ll discuss seven essential communication tips to consider when reopening your physical therapy practice.
1. Communicate the Latest Operational Information
Tailoring physical therapy treatment to each individual is critical, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution in these uncertain times. Physical therapy practices need to heed CDC warnings and government advice when making decisions in their patients’ best interests.
Throughout this process, communicate when you’re returning to normal-ish operations – explaining in detail what’s changed. PTs should reach out to their patients, marking their preferred method of communication, and let them know details about opening the clinic. In the following weeks, ensure each patient receives updates via their preferred method of communication and understands the current services provided.
Excellent communication will benefit the safety of all by allowing extra time to prepare facilities and staff for patient visits and telehealth services.
2. Share Precautions Taken to Create a Safe Environment for Patients
Include descriptions of these various safety measures in your newsletter, social media posts, or over the phone. Patients should know what precautions to expect before they attend their scheduled appointment.
3. Provide an Ongoing Option for Telehealth Services
Providing the option for ongoing telehealth services is vital for your patients’ ease of access to physical therapy. While some people are comfortable leaving their homes, others are not. Especially for patients who are elderly or high-risk due to preexisting conditions. PTs must bend their procedures around patients to strengthen the overall treatment strategy.
Additionally, encouraging enrollment in telehealth services will decrease traffic in your clinic, making it safer for your staff, patients, and self. Having these methods in place, if you haven’t already, is vital for patients who need care.
4. Use Social Media to Provide Essential Updates
Emails, phone calls, and business websites are powerful communication methods, but with 79% of the U.S. enrolled in social media, people rely on social media updates from businesses. Physical therapy practices should be using at least one of the popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to keep their patients updated on rapidly changing information.
Use social platforms to showcase precautions your clinic is taking or educate patients on updated policies and procedures. Include social links on your website to encourage people to sign up and get the latest information at their convenience.
5. Strike the Right Tone & Show Empathy
Tonality couldn’t be more critical when speaking to patients about sensitive subjects. Each individual’s experience is different during these challenging times. Your outreach should be careful and considerate when addressing the status of your clinic regardless if you’re informing patients via phone, email, social media, or using other methods of communication.
Treating patients requires custom-tailored solutions, so why shouldn’t communication? Proper tone and understanding of their situation can help them absorb information. Be mindful when contacting patients and ensure you have a plan of how you’d like to present updates by either writing them down or having a colleague proof-read your content.
6. Offer Options to Contact Your Physical Therapy Practice
Everybody has their preferred method of communication, so you should provide different options. Physical therapy offices make life easier for their patients if they have the following contact options In place:
- Phone calls – routed to someone’s phone if nobody is in the office
- Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
- Website chat and “contact us” page
Once you’ve reached out to your patient, bookmark and update their preferred method of contact for effortless future updates.
Just be mindful of HIPAA as you move forward.
7. Use Your Website as an Information Powerhouse
Your website is highly influential, and chances are – especially as a new patient, people will scan your site for pertinent information. Updating your hours of operation is important, but most won’t be sure if that means you’re open without getting in touch.
Therefore, make a statement about the current steps your practice is taking to reopen effectively. Provide relevant blog posts and newsletters for existing patients seeking information. Encourage a sense of community by publishing thoughtful material to comfort those who are seeking help from a physical therapist during these shutdowns.
Above all, make sure it’s current at all times, so there’s no confusion on what services you’re providing, what measures you’re taking to mitigate risk and give patients an easy way to contact you with questions.
The Bottom Line
The whirlwind of state and business-specific updates on this ongoing situation can be daunting at times. Physical therapists should do everything in their power to bridge the gap between providers and patients. PTs can lower risks associated with treatment when using their communication toolkit to update websites, post advice on social media, present multiple options, and inform patients on changing procedures ahead of time so they can prepare for treatment.