Why Patient Communication Is More Important Than Ever With The COVID-19 Vaccine

The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine has been released, with emergency approval from the FDA. Healthcare workers and those over age 75 are already getting the first dose of the two-dose vaccine. NBC News has reported that many doctors are bracing for patients clamoring to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Other doctors are getting ready to talk with patients skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Physicians who have a lot of experience talking to vaccine-hesitant patients say that asking questions and listening can be the most important aspect of communication. Once they know where a patient is coming from, they can provide more meaningful patient education

Additionally, the CDC has released guidance for doctors offering patient education. Doctors can also find scripts to help guide them through what may be a delicate conversation. Since the COVID-19 vaccine is brand-new, doctors (and their patients) will benefit from having a plan for effective communication around the vaccine. 

Why Communication Is Key With The COVID-19 Vaccine

Good communication between doctors and patients has always been vital. Patients need to be able to trust that their doctors are making the best recommendations. As in any other relationship, doctors earn that trust by listening to the concerns of their patients and responding to them clearly, respectfully, and truthfully. As we find ourselves in a moment of polarization and misinformation, calm, respectful communication is more important than ever. Patients will have more medical concerns than usual. In addition, many people are feeling more anxious or depressed than ever before. Doctors need to take these factors into consideration while planning how to communicate about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The modern model of patient care is more focused on a partnership model. Older models were more paternalistic and emphasized doing what the doctor said. Now, people expect to exercise agency and control over medical decisions. They want good information so they can make informed decisions.  

Why is communication important in healthcare?

A successful communication strategy has many important benefits for both physicians and patients. 

  • Both parties build a sense of trust, and patients have a greater sense of control over their medical care. Among patients who feel a sense of control over their medical care, 76% report feeling “very satisfied” with their care. Exercising agency decreases people’s feelings of distress. 
  • Patients are more likely to follow their doctors’ recommendations when they know how and, especially, why protocols are in place. Providing education helps patients trust doctors more. 
  • As doctors speak with their patients about concerns and document the concerns, they learn more about how their patients think. This will enable them to provide better care in the future. 
  • Everyone feels more satisfied with outcomes. As doctors communicate more, patients are more likely to collaborate in their care. This leads to a higher sense of satisfaction for patients. Physicians feel less burn out because patients are active in their own care.

Tips For Talking To Patients About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Now on to making a communication plan for your practice! We expect that the basics of our tips are already in place at your office. We just need to update and tailor communication for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Be sure to prepare for patients with a variety of backgrounds and health histories. Everyone has experienced the pandemic in different ways. Staff should be prepared to communicate with people from many different cultural, educational, and health backgrounds. 

It may be helpful to prepare for the fact that a sizable population of patients will not want the COVID-19 vaccine. Some will be skeptical of vaccines in general. Others will have read articles online that scared them. Or maybe they have family and friends who have given them inaccurate information. The Ask-Tell-Ask method of communicating with patients can be very effective at increasing vaccine acceptance.  

A warm and empathetic tone will be helpful to receptionists delivering information to clients both in person and over the phone.  Asking questions, as appropriate, to understand a patient’s hesitations around the vaccine wilI promote trust, while also giving staff the information they need to better understand the patient. Is there a particular article or website they read? Maybe they’re worried about how fast the vaccine was developed and approved. Truly understanding patient concerns begins and ends with active listening. Documenting this information can reveal trends and further prepare staff for conversations with patients.

Remember to use language that is accessible to the patient. Not everyone understands technical language or the vernacular that a healthcare professional uses. People can feel belittled to have another person speaking in terms they don’t understand. By the same token, the line between being mindful of accessibility and sounding a bit condescending can be fine. As a professional in the medical field, you probably have some experience with this and know that clear language and a respectful tone is key. When in doubt, leave room for follow up questions to make sure your patient understands. 

One last piece of advice: Be as transparent as possible about what you know and what you don’t. Speak only about what you know. If you are a staff member and come across a patient with a question you don’t know the answer to, tell them you are making a note for a nurse or doctor to follow up with an answer. In the meantime, have a list of resources people can access from home. Offer to email or text them to the patient. If the patient is not comfortable with technology, ask if they have a friend or family member who can help them access the information. 

Remember that good communication in a healthcare setting can literally save lives. When people have good information and build trust with their doctors, they are much more likely to follow recommendations. In an evolving situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, being clear about what you know, what you don’t, and pointing people to good resources is absolutely critical. 

And for those moments when you need a break or aren’t in a position to deliver compassionate communication, Ruby has your back. Our HIPAA-compliant virtual reception and live chat services can address caller and website visitors questions so you can focus on your patients.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
2021 Legal Trends Report: gavel with scale of justice on desk
Legal Practice Tips

Clio 2021 Legal Trends Report: in summary

Content marketing and social media tips: side view of photo editor working in a creative office
Small Business Tips

Content marketing & social media: 4 easy tips for getting started

A single pine tree on a rocky summit
Small Business Tips

Meeting customer expectations during a holiday season like no other

Person at desk in front of computer waiting on phone
Receptionist Tips

Have trouble handling the emotional weight of phone calls? You’re not alone.

Choosing a business number: overhead view of faded yellow vintage telephone with notebook and numbers on monochrome background
Small Business Tips

What your phone number says about your business

How to find and analyze your website traffic: two people look at a computer in a bright office space
Small Business Tips

How to find and analyze your website traffic

Using virtual receptionists for part-time answering - Ruby

Using virtual receptionists for part-time answering

What is a conversation worth: illustration of a confused person with complicated calculations hovering above their head
Small Business Tips

What is a conversation really worth? We calculated the exact dollar amount.

Top 3 legal marketing strategies for 2022: man looks at laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Top 3 legal marketing strategies for 2022

24/7 live chat: a Ruby chat specialist and a potential new client use computers in split screen with a live chat window between them
About Ruby

How Ruby’s 24/7 live chat solution grows your business and saves you time

Why empathy matters for your business: person listening to another person in cafe with laptop, papers, and coffee
Small Business Tips

Why empathy matters for your business

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Sales Support

Already a Ruby customer?

Let’s get started.

Ready to turn more callers into customers?

Missed connections translate to lost revenue. With Ruby, you have a partner in gaining and retaining customers. Plus, we’re so confident you’ll love our service, we offer a 21 day money-back guarantee*.

*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.