Sometimes silence isn’t so golden – like during a pandemic. People need to know what to do, and they turn to those they trust for answers, including their community pharmacists. To help provide pharmacists with a little guidance on how best to communicate with patients during these stressful times, we’ve looked to some good sources ourselves. Read on for what we found.
There are important benefits of communicating directly with patients during an unexpected or out-of-the-norm event. The benefits go beyond the sharing of useful information, although that’s vital to reinforce accurate ways to minimize risk. Additionally, simply staying in touch helps relieve anxiety and maintain a feeling of order. It assures patients that other thoughtful, capable people are working with them to stabilize things.
When things are more hectic and stressful than usual, it can be easy to overlook what’s easy to do. Remember that when it comes to communicating about safety and operational changes, it would be hard to over-communicate. Also remember to ensure that all your employees understand what you’re trying to communicate – consistency is so important. Below are communication channels that the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN®) recommends that community pharmacies address:
Physical signage. Have you updated the outside marquee sign with appropriate COVID-19 messaging? What about posters in the window or inside the store? There are many resources online that can be downloaded and printed. Find just one example here that shares steps patients can take to protect themselves. Consider making signs poster-size for better visibility. A regular 8×10 page to inform patients about curbside delivery could be easily overlooked.
IVR messages. Have you updated your phone message to reflect any changes in store operations or recommended actions for patients? To address the increased need for IVR message updates during the COVID-19 crisis, QS/1 has dedicated more internal staff to creating recordings. IVR has its own email address for support questions: IVRSupport@smithtech.com. Contact us if you need to update your IVR to communicate altered store hours, increased delivery options, and other changes to your pharmacy operations.
Note: Due to work restrictions, emergency recordings may vary within your IVR system.
Website and social media. Research shows that electronic communication isn’t just for young people. According to the Pew Research Center, 79% of Americans over age 50 own a smart phone, and 53% of those over 65 do. AARP research found that among those ages 50-69, text messaging has overtaken email as the tech tool most used to stay connected. So, use your website and Facebook page to regularly update patients. Inform them on how to best communicate with the pharmacy, how to pick up meds, how the delivery process has changed, what OTC products you have available, etc. Remind them to like your social accounts to make sure they’re receiving updates.
Patient Flyers. Consider developing and distributing a flyer to give patients upon medication pickup or delivery. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just useful. This can not only help address issues patients may be worrying about, it can help reduce phone calls into the pharmacy during an unusually busy time. The printout can talk about how to continue obtaining medications, any enhanced services you’re offering (such as med sync), and currently available OTC products in categories that have seen high demand or shortages. You may also want to use flyers to address patient FAQs. The CDC has information on all the following topics and more – consider copy and pasting information into a document to stuff into bags or just creating a page with a few useful internet links that patients can use themselves.
- How It Spreads, How to Protect Yourself
- COVID-19 and Children, COVID-19 and Animals
- Preparing Your Home for COVID-19, In Case of an Outbreak in Your Community
- Symptoms & Testing
- Higher Risk, Underlying Conditions
- COVID-19 and Funerals
- School Dismissals and Children
More Detailed Information
Our COVID-19 page contains additional information on what to communicate, rather than simply how – such as encouraging patients to receive their normal refill amounts to minimize shortages. We’ll share further guidance from CPESN, including real-life examples of pharmacies implementing best-practice communications. We’ll also discuss using QS/1 software’s outbound messaging capabilities to help reduce some of your phone volume during this time. Look for the Product Tips section.