Communicating with patients
Practices should plan and prepare for open, realistic and continuing communication with the public during events such as the current novel coronavirus event. Patients need to know that their general practice is a reliable source of accurate, clear, concise, balanced and up-to-date information.
Calm, clear responses providing the most recent information will assist in reducing any alarm. The communication should be consistent with the Australian Federal Government Department of Health and state/territory health departments.
To ensure that all practice staff feel confident in their knowledge and in delivering information to patients and responding to queries, practices could consider instituting morning debriefs on the current situation.
Practices should clearly communicate to patients:
- What is known
- What is unknown
- What is being done
- Where they can access further information
Methods of communication will vary depending on the practice and patient groups. By selecting a range of different communication methods during events such as this, patient reach will be maximised and the load on more direct methods of communication such as phone and email will be lessened. Examples of different communication methods include:
- Email from practice to patients with information on opening hours and any practice specific processes you may have implemented
- Posters and signs at the entrance to the practice and in the waiting room (see Patient alert posters)
- Fact sheets and brochures
- On-hold telephone call waiting messages
- Phone answering machine message
- Information on practice website
- Information in practice newsletters
- Internal building signage such as a notice board dedicated to current events
- Waiting room videos
- Credible websites with relevant information
- Social media
Consider deactivating your online booking site if it does not allow patients to provide information such as symptoms and travel/exposure history.
Communication topics may include:
- Who is at risk
- How is it spread
- Signs and symptoms and how these vary from normal flu
- Infection control measures (what is and is not effective)
- When to call for an appointment
- When to go, and not to go, to the emergency department
- Self-isolation for suspected and confirmed cases
- Frequently asked questions including travel advice
- Practice policies including what to expect if you are suspected of having COVID-19.