American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Introduction

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Since mid-March 2020, hospitals across the country and around the world paused most surgical care in order to preserve resources to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. As hospitals now take steps to resume procedures following clearance from local and federal authorities, many patients continue to be apprehensive about returning to a health care facility—even to the extent that they are willing to delay or even cancel necessary surgical care.

In fact, new survey results show a third of patients are willing to wait at least three months after restrictions are lifted in their area to seek care, and one in five won’t be comfortable returning for procedures until six months have passed.* But as many surgeons know, patients fearful of risks may wait too long to seek the necessary, and sometimes even lifesaving, surgical care they need. Further, open communication may help alleviate some of the apprehension patients feel.

A new toolkit from the American College of Surgeons helps surgeons communicate with their patients about the steps their hospitals are taking to reduce the risk of COVID-19, and stresses that, when it comes to talking about COVID-19, surgeon-patient communication is a shared responsibility. The survey also found surgeons are the most influential voices for patients wondering whether their care will be safe. Personalized outreach, including phone calls, can ease fears and allow patients to ask questions about what they can expect when they arrive at the hospital, ambulatory center, or your office. They want to hear directly from you, and no level of detail is too much in our current environment. We’ve also developed a resource that patients can use to guide discussions. You can view the document here.

Included in this toolkit are templates and resources to help you reach out to patients directly who may also have wanted to reach out to you but are not comfortable making that first phone call. Also included are resources for traditional and social media, and your hospital or practice website, including:

  • A communication guide, with sample questions that your patients may ask. This guide will help you gather the information you will need to have detailed conversations and answer potential patient questions. facs.org/be-prepared
  • A template press release that you can distribute to your local media.
  • Sample social media posts and tips for posting.
  • A sample video script that can be used for recording on your phone or tablet, which you can post on social media or on your hospital or practice website. You can also work with your hospital’s media relations officer to record a video if your facility has its own studio or videographer. facs.org/be-prepared
  • A draft newsletter article that you can post on your hospital or practice website. facs.org/be-prepared

Should you need assistance as you use these tools to navigate patient communications, you may reach out to the American College of Surgeons Integrated Communications team for assistance at covid19@facs.org.

We want to help you resume your practice, ensure your patients feel comfortable and receive timely care, and most important, ensure they avoid costly or even life-threatening delays in care. If we can provide more assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out. Additional COVID-19 tools and resources can also be found online at FACS.org/COVID-19.

* Revive Health. "Consumer Survey Update COVID-19." Accessed May 26, 2020. Available at: https://go.thinkrevivehealth.com/covid-findings-report-3.

Download the toolkit