Patients might be hesitant to enter your practice or office space, so communicating with them prior to expanding in-person care will help them to feel informed and safe. There are many different ways to communicate with patients.
Website
Add (or link to) appropriate and up-to-date COVID-19 resources, updated information about the safety policies being implemented at the office, options for virtual care, link to a virtual COVID assessment tool, etc.
Email, texts, and social media

Before communicating with your patients, it is a good idea to be familiar with the CMPA’s Duties and Responsibilities when using email, texting, or social media. As well, the CMPA strongly suggests patients sign the Consent to Use Electronic Communications document that can be included in the patient’s EMR. (also available in a Word document)

Doctor’s Technology Office has developed Getting Patients Back to Practice for physician’s providing a blend of in-person and virtual care. This document includes some key messaging, tips for contacting patients, different approaches, and templates. In the Appendix of this document is an email template. You will also need to consider in which circumstances you would rely on electronic communications, who would monitor them, etc.

Keep in mind that social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. are public facing, so you will need to be circumspect with the type of information that is communicated in this way. 

Consider adding a link in your email signature line directing recipients to COVID-19 information either on your website or the BCCDC

Voicemail Message
Outline your office’s response to COVID and measures that patients should be taking (i.e. asking for patience due to high volume of calls, directing them to the appropriate contact for changing their appointment, etc.).
Appointment Reminders
Modify messages to highlight COVID-19 and outline what patients should do if they have symptoms. Explain how a visit will be different from in the past.
Phone Outreach
Contact patients with/without email to check-in, outline your expansion plans, and book any needed appointments. Leverage MOAs, Residents, or other team members and bill as appropriate.
Proactive Outreach QI and Workflow Improvements
Through phone or video, conduct virtual proactive care with vulnerable patients, those with mental health issues, chronic disease, complex conditions, lower socio-economic status, substance use, the elderly or the isolated. Update demographics. Conduct QI projects. Implement EMR templates and other workflow improvements.

Email to patients

 
Dear xxxxx
 
As you are likely aware, British Columbia is relaxing restrictions and doctors are accordingly beginning to slowly open their offices up again - however, the office visit will be quite different than it was before the arrival of COVID-19.
 
British Columbians followed the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry, when she asked us all to practice physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and staying at home as much as possible, which has made re-opening possible 
 
COVID-19 has not gone away, however the risk of any of us catching the disease and overwhelming our healthcare system has reduced. 
 
It is very important that we adhere to the following steps cautiously and safely, so that we don’t increase our risk and revert back to our earlier restrictions. It is important that you continue to follow the measures that Dr. Henry advises as this is the only way we will prevent COVID-19 cases from rising again.
 
Over the coming weeks and months, this office will slowly increase the amount of in-person healthcare, and resume some of the more routine healthcare services that were safely suspended at the start of the pandemic. But we can only continue to move forward like this as long as the risk of infection from COVID-19 remains low.
Initially, we will continue to see patients virtually, via video, or on the telephone in cases where that is prudent. In-person care will take place when deemed necessary, such as for urgent conditions, conditions needing a physical examination, necessary examinations for chronic diseases, or some screenings, for example. 
 
The reasons we cannot not see everyone in-person are:
 
  • We must continue to reduce the COVID-19 risk in our offices through physical distancing, which means reducing the amount of people in our office at any one time.
  • We have to clean our exam rooms frequently and thoroughly to ensure you are not at risk of catching COVID from your visit -- cleaning takes time further reducing the number of people we can see in our office each day.
  • The risk of COVID-19 has not gone away, and to keep your doctors safe, we are required to wear PPE (masks and eye protection) during all in-person encounters. PPE remains in short supply worldwide—therefore we have to be economical with its usage.
  • We know that virtual care is safe and effective in a number of conditions and welcomed by a number of our patients as more convenient.
We want to reassure you that safe care will continue to occur, and that you will be seen in-person if it is clinically necessary. Over time, and presuming our risk remains low, we anticipate seeing more of you in the office. 
 
Please remember our office is open and providing care (either in office or virtually) – whatever your health care concern is. However, please phone our office to make an appointment, together we can determine whether it is safe for you to come to the office and be seen in person –please do not simply show up. 
 
We look forward to seeing more of you in the office in the future. 
 
Yours Sincerely,
 
 
 
Dr XXXX