Minimizing conflict: Coping with COVID burnout for patients
April 26, 2022 By MindZPlay Solutions Staff
When we last discussed using technology to streamline your pandemic workflow, practitioners were struggling to balance their day-to-day tasks with newly mandated sanitation and intake protocols. Today, we are seeing practitioners coping with a new source of pandemic related stress: an often-daily battle with “forgetful” clients who suddenly can’t seem to remember common protocols like bringing a mask, filling out screening forms in advance, etc.
Clients are tired and impatient for things to return to normal. They are not always considerate of the difficulty it poses when they try to skip mandatory safety processes, or leave things to the last minute.
Protocols are a moving target
If you feel you are having a harder time dealing with clients now than you were before, you are not alone. It is important we remind ourselves that none of us are at our best right now. Pandemic fatigue is very real, and everyone is feeling it. A big part of the issue is that a pandemic is not a static event; health regulations must by necessity change and evolve to reflect our current understanding of the virus, and viruses are not static entities. For those with very little time to immerse themselves in the complicated science of all this, messaging can feel very muddy. Every government has their own strategy, and in Canada those strategies can often vary from one province to the next. This leads to stress, confusion, and fatigue. Human beings by nature prefer consistency – We are hardwired to hold onto our habits. As a result, periods of frequent change can be draining.
Communication reduces conflict
The first step to promoting client compliance is to communicate. Make sure your clients are aware of the current state of the regulations you are bound by, and that they understand these are not just your rules. Some people simply do not have the time to keep up, and many expect that this visit to your clinic will be exactly the same as their last visit. People like simple answers, and when none are available some will simply make up their own, coasting on the assumption that the protocols of some other professional they visited recently (who may not be bound to the same standards you are) will be the same everywhere. They will not proactively seek the latest information, because they assume they have it already. It is your duty to ensure your clients remain safe and protected during their treatments, and it is up to you to keep them abreast of any important changes in clinic’s protocols.
Recognizing your clients’ current mindset can help you to deal with them more effectively. In general, people are frustrated and overwhelmed, so making your processes as easy as possible for them is important. If you have an online practice management system, check to see if it offers COVID-19 screening forms that can be filled out online by the client. People are more likely to fill out their forms on time if they can do so conveniently from their homes or offices. (Note: It is important that these forms are up to date. Ontario, for example, has updated its intake forms several times over the course of the pandemic.)
Be clear, concise and clutter-free
The next key to encouraging client compliance is clarity. Chances are, you have at some point in your life checked a box or put your signature on something that you haven’t fully read. People tend to shy away from dense pages of text, particularly if they believe they already know enough about what is contained there. Always assume clients will quickly skim anything you put in front of them. It is a good practice to start any communication with the most important information first. If you do not give the client a reason to suspect that the information you are about to present is new to them, they could very well skip over it entirely. Consider adding dates to your policy page, or making mention that your terms are being updated regularly to reflect current regulations. Make it clear that they should be re-read before booking.
When writing content, you should think about who is reading your message and what information will be most critical to them at the time. For instance, publishing your sanitation protocols on your website is very beneficial because your website is the first-place new clients trying to learn about your practice will go. An appointment reminder, on the other hand, is not an ideal place for this information as people receiving it have already booked with you, demonstrating that they are familiar with you enough to trust that you are taking adequate precautions. Cutting down unnecessary content prevents important information from getting lost. Consider when and why your message will be read, then remove any unnecessary clutter. Prioritize information that is critical enough to be worth repeating over information that is simply nice to have.
Returning to our last example, appointment related messages should always lead with what you need a client to do prior to their appointment – Do you need them to bring a mask? Fill out a form? When does that form need to be filled out? This is the information you want to put front and center. Keep each individual client communication or message short, but be sure that anything you need clients to do is stated and re-stated to them at every opportunity. Critical information is worth repeating. Post it on your website, in your clinic, and include it in your automatic appointment reminder and confirmation message – these are all opportunities for you to communicate with your clients.
Your website, for instance, presents several opportunities you may have overlooked. Many people assume that their website is the place people are least likely to take in policy information – this is not the case. It’s a great place for that. Remember, people need to see a message several times before it will stick. Client instructions must be well worded, well formatted, and repeated. If you find your clients are continually forgetting to do something, think about when and how you communicate with them about the importance of doing so. Having a dedicated COVID-19 policy page is a great idea, but it’s important to be realistic. Some people will assume they know the information already, and some people simply won’t notice the page is there. This is why you have to think beyond a single page on your website. Give people multiple paths to get to the information you feel is important and make it as easy for them to digest as possible.
When designing your policy page, remember that people are unlikely to even attempt reading a solid wall of text with nothing to break it up. Consider varying your formatting in order to make the important information pop. Selective use of headings, bullet points, and font styling can help guide people toward the most critical information. A little time working on the presentation of your pages can go a long way to helping clients find and remember what you need them to do.
Do not forget that consequences should also be considered critical information. What happens when a client fails to comply with a given policy? Are there consequences if someone forgets to fill out their forms ahead of time? What could occur if they arrive late, or fail to provide 24 hrs notice before cancelling? Remember that there are benefits to repetition that go beyond ensuring that clients comply with your policies. No matter how well you word your message, or how many places you present it, some people will forget. When you can point out the multiple, very visible places that your policy and the consequences for failure to comply can be found, clients are much more likely to accept the consequences and move on without conflict.
If you put in the effort to streamline your communications, most clients will respect that as a healthcare practitioner you have rules to follow in order to maintain your license and will do their best to keep up their end of things.
mindZplay Solutions Inc., a provider of massage therapy websites and practice management solutions. To learn more, visit massagemanedger.com.
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