The coronavirus pandemic has shaken our normal, perhaps for some time to come. Many addiction treatment centers are understandably concerned about falling admission rates. Keep in mind, however, many people still want to pursue addiction treatment in these trying times. You just need to adapt and meet them where they are.
How each addiction treatment center deals with this crisis will vary, based on their unique situation. However, what matters is that you’re communicating with your patients in the midst of a difficult time. To establish your facility as a source of help during this pandemic, the following action steps provide effective ways to reach your audience:
Crisis Communication for Your Addiction Treatment Website
Without question, the most important component of your digital connection is your website. People will want to know how your facility is being affected by the pandemic. For example, are you operating normally? Are you accepting new patients? How is the process of treatment being affected? Your website needs to answer these and other questions.
In order to provide this information, you can tweak your website in one of two ways:
Tweak Your Home Page: Given its high profile, your home page is a good place to include a section containing updates or a prominent banner with a link to a dedicated page on the pandemic.
Add a Specific COVID-19 Web Page: A dedicated page concerning the pandemic is a good way to show that you care about your patients. This page allows you to go into some depth about various concerns patients may have about treatment during—and after—the pandemic.
Communicating through your website about what’s happening is vital to maintaining and strengthening trust in your facility. Without that communication, prospective patients may decide to put off treatment, which may be dangerous.
Covid-19 Email Updates: The importance of regular and consistent communications to your patients and alumni
Most companies are sending out regular coronavirus updates these days, and while the sheer amount of them you receive may serve to dull their importance, the fact is your consistent presence adds a layer of connection and security for your patients. Things you want to tell recipients in an email might include:
A message from your management team
Reassurances that addiction treatment is still available
A list of things your addiction treatment center is doing to maintain a clean, socially distanced environment
Recommendations for ways patients can stay safe while undergoing treatment
Telehealth is the Norm For Now (and a value-added service for the future)
In this crisis, video conferencing has been a lifesaver for many businesses. With virtual consultations, you have an effective way to stay connected with your patient base. In fact, video consultations may well be remembered as a literal lifesaver for the healthcare industry during this difficult time.
If you’re using video consultations, make an announcement about it to your patients. Notify them through email and ask them to take a look at the virtual platform so that they become familiar with it. In addition, discuss it on social media and invite feedback. It would also be beneficial to write a blog announcing this new feature with instructions on how to use it.
Develop and Expand On Your Social Media Presence
Every day the human spirit finds new and creative ways to use technology to overcome the damage physical separation is doing to our mental health. Developing and expanding your social media presence is an important action step you can take during this crisis. In the midst of social distancing and business closures, these platforms are a lifeline for current patients, alumni, as well as new patients and family members seeking qualified help. However, general social media messaging isn’t what people are looking for at this particular moment. Instead, you’ll want to transition as much of your in-person support and community building efforts as you can to your social accounts. A healthy mix of help, connection, and humanity can build a strong resource. Your mix could include posting messages and graphics of encouragement, creating topic discussion groups, providing facility updates, sharing presentations via recorded webinar or live streaming, and of course, plenty of fun and creative posts to keep staff as well as patients engaged and connected.
Take a Breath—All of This is Temporary
As bad as things seem, they will get better. Perhaps not as fast as we’d all prefer but they will get better. Until that happens, it’s up to you to assure patients and their families that you’re doing everything you can to keep them informed and safe.
The pandemic has forced people to basically live online. That means your addiction treatment center needs to do the best job possible to join them there. Patients, alumni, and prospective patients will value your professionalism and willingness to provide them with the kind of support they’re seeking. As the situation begins to shift back toward normal, your actions right now can greatly increase patient trust over the long term.
You’re the calm, reassuring voice patients need to hear. Make sure they hear it.