Overcoming misinformation and disinformation is the next big challenge in conquering the Coronavirus. Misinformation, poor communication, and a flawed vaccine rollout has put a damper on the positive outcomes that a COVID vaccine can offer millions of Americans. It’s creating confusion and apprehension for those patients that are seeking a solution.
To combat the misinformation or disinformation, States have launched PSA campaigns speaking to the efficacy and safety of the vaccine. In late February, The Ad Council and COVID Collaborative launched the largest public education effort in US history. “It’s Up to You” has over 300 major brands, media companies, community-based organizations, faith leaders, and medical experts supporting the effort. WebMD has a dedicated resource section – Ongoing Coverage: COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation – with headlines covering black vaccine hesitancy, overcoming vaccine anxiety, and false reports about infertility. And the list goes on.
Patients Have Mixed Emotions about the Vaccine
According to a recent survey by eMindful, a quarter of the workforce has mixed emotions about getting the COVID vaccine expressing concerns about the effects and efficacy. These are also the same people that will be most susceptible to COVID vaccine misinformation as they will be actively seeking and searching for answers.
As healthcare providers, what is your responsibility when it comes to heading off misinformation? How can you properly educate patients about the virus and vaccine?
Healthcare Providers A Trusted Source of COVID Information
In a day and age where we get most of our information online, facts are typically hard to come by. It seems that every minute a new theory arises about the effect of the Coronavirus Vaccine on your patients. Sadly, lots of this information is just conjecture or simply fake. This is leaving your patients confused and concerned. Should they get the vaccine? Do underlying conditions make them more susceptible to reactions? Will the vaccine do more harm than good? As a provider, you are a trusted resource for your patients. By providing them with education and guidance you can cut through the misinformation and provide the reassurance they are looking for.
It starts by engaging your patients. By leveraging your patient engagement tools you can create a dialogue with your patients and help them make more informed decisions. For example, Mass General Brigham sends out regular COVID-19 Updates to their patient base. Communications include tips and tricks on staying healthy, education on the vaccine and vaccine safety, who is eligible for the vaccine and open vaccination locations near the patient. The communications are sent via email and through the patient portal in regular pulses to keep patients informed an up to date.
Your practice can employ a similar strategy with your patient engagement and messaging tools. Start by sending out a general message answering some Frequently Asked Questions. Encourage patients to reach out to the practice if they have more questions. This can also be an opportunity for you to connect with patients that haven’t been in for regular appointments getting them the care they need.
Create a resource center on your website with facts about Coronavirus and the vaccine. Include helpful details such as who qualifies for a vaccine and what is required when making your vaccine appointment. Consider hosting a Zoom call with one of your providers that is open to your patients and their family members. Send regular text and email messages with important updates.
Your patients will appreciate it, you will create a tighter practice-patient connection, and it will help overcome misinformation.
Getting Started: 4 Ways Providers Can Make A Difference
- Tackle the big stuff first – To cut through the clutter focus on what matters most to your patient base. If you are an OBGYN, start by addressing concerns of infertility. Trying to tackle every piece of misinformation will leave you overwhelmed and frustrated. Stay focused on the big stuff first.
- Embrace your role as an educator – Make education an ongoing effort at your practice not just during the pandemic. By establishing your practice as the go to source for information on medical related questions, you’ll strengthen your relationship and create lifelong patients.
- Focus on sound advice – base your advice on science and facts, not emotion.
- Avoid repeating falsehoods – Make sure you are not spreading falsehoods. If you have social media accounts or a web presence, make sure you are verifying anything you like, retweet, or post prior to publishing.
Healthcare Providers Play a Vital Role in COVID Vaccine Education
Don’t underestimate your role in tackling COVID vaccine misinformation. Healthcare providers can help improve patient knowledge through frequent contact with their patients opening the lines of communication for those seeking answers and counsel.