It’s everywhere in the news. Ebola is top of mind as the world faces a potential pandemic. Internally at hospitals and medical practices, attention is being directed appropriately at emergency preparedness. But don’t forget the importance of managing today’s patient experience around this crucial issue.
1. Your patients need reassurance now! What they see and hear during their care encounter makes all the difference. At risk of stating the obvious, make sure you are demonstrating impeccable hand-washing and gloving (if indicated) techniques in front of the patient so that they can actually see you foaming or washing hands. The appearance of the facilities is crucial. While we know that the disease is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids, the consumer doesn’t necessarily understand that. What they see (clutter, messy bathrooms, dirty elevators and parking ramps) can trigger unrest and suspicion that you aren’t paying attention to infection control either. Our mystery shoppers consistently share comments like, “If the bathroom is this messy, what else is left dirty?” This is the time to make certain that your facilities are at their very best in terms of cleanliness.
Prepare every staff person how to respond to various questions or comments from patients and family members. Use the opportunity to state (using scripts) that you and your organization are on top of infection control measures.
2. Recognize that all healthcare employees need help in responding to comments and questions from patients and community members. Housekeepers, maintenance workers, and billing clerks are not in direct patient care but still need to be armed with talking points to reassure the public when casual conversation turns to the subject of Ebola. Provide them with brief talking points and scripts. But make sure they have the facts about prevention and transmission.
3. Remember that your workforce constitutes a powerful force of ambassadors. Make sure that they are kept informed and armed with timely information. Use daily huddles to keep them informed and to learn from them about what is being talked about in the community. Distribute succinct facts and talking points to help dispel myths and misconceptions. They are a vital part of your first line of defense not only against the actual infection, but the spread of panic and fear. Engage them as part of the solution now.