Coronavirus-Communications Support

Coronavirus-Communications Support

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COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA – Guidance and Templates – COVID-19
April 13, 2020


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Public Relations and Media Support Related to COVID-19 – Services for COPIC insureds
COPIC recognizes that many health care professionals are finding themselves in a role that they didn’t train for—communications representative. They are being asked to respond to media inquiries and/or to participate in town hall meetings or public discussions. It can be a challenge to prepare for these situations during a crisis, especially if this is a new role for people. COPIC wants to help. We have a contract in place with a well-respected public relations/media consultant and we are expanding their  services to include one-on-one support for our insureds who find themselves in this unchartered water.  

If you find yourself in this position, first and foremost, please review the below best practices guidelines. If you would like additional support, please call our Patient Safety and Risk Management department at (720) 858-6396 during normal daytime business hours, and if it is after hours, and is an urgent situation, call our 24/7 Risk Management Hotline at (720) 858-6270 or (866) 274-7511. We will gather the basic information and determine the sense of urgency and have the consultant respond in a timely manner.

Services that can be provided include: 
• Consulting/coaching/best practices for situations where there is, or is anticipated to be, negative media coverage, social media concerns, or online reputation management.
• Best practices when responding to media inquiries.
• Coaching to be better prepared to respond in these situations.   
• Strategic counsel at the front end of a crisis and ongoing counsel, as needed.
• Message development:
     o Media statements
     o Talking points for patient/customer communications
     o COVID-19 media discussions

As health experts in your respective communities, the way you communicate about COVID-19 to patients, the general public, and staff/employees is very important during this time. In addition, there is a high likelihood that you will be asked by media and others for information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Accurate and timely information is critical during this time, and we offer this toolkit as a quick-reference guide, complete with templates and helpful tips, that you can use to support your communications.

The following guidelines and templates should be considered for use on multiple channels including your website, social media posts, emails to patients, signage on facilities, statements to media, etc. These template communications cover the following scenarios and we will be adding more template communications as needed: 
• Reduction of hours or a temporary closure
• Elimination of elective surgeries or other elective procedures
• Elimination or reduction of visitation hours
• A patient or provider in your facility has tested positive for COVID-19

• Priority audiences for your communication may include:
• Senior leadership team and Boards of Directors 
• On-site team members, physicians, and volunteers
• Patients and families
• External media/community-at-large

General Communication Guidelines: 
• Be compassionate. Ensure your communications are first and foremost about those directly impacted, as well as the health and well-being of your staff, patients, and community-at-large.
• Be targeted. Focus messages on the right audience(s) to ensure what you are communicating is reaching the appropriate target audience(s). Use multiple channels to communicate critical information, but be sure that your message is consistent across these channels.
• Be honest and transparent. Personal communications from your leadership (e.g., CEO or Chief Medical Officer) are important and impactful, and it is crucial that you are honest with the information you share. 
• Be accurate. It is completely acceptable to copy and paste information from credible organizations (e.g., CDC, AMA, HHS, your state health dept.). Just be sure to cite the source and link to the original document or reference it. It is essential that you, as the health experts in your community, communicate timely and accurate information.
• Be prepared. To the extent you are able, prepare content in advance for worst-case or anticipated scenarios. The following templates are designed to help with that. 
• Don’t get political. If asked by media or others about the response from government (federal, state or local), respond with something like: “There will be a time for that evaluation, but our primary focus now is on caring for our community and stopping the spread of this virus as quickly as possible.”

Media Guidelines: 
• There is no such thing as “off the record.” Any conversation or email communication you have with a reporter can be used.
• You are never obligated to talk to media.
• “No comment” should never be used as a response as it comes across as defensive.
• If you receive a call or email from the media, you do not have to respond right way. Take time to research who they are and prepare your messages before responding.
• “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable response. If you are not 100% certain of the answer, offer to follow up. 
• Protecting patients’ privacy must always be a priority. Never speculate with the media about an issue and never discuss a particular patient’s case publicly (even if the reporter has the patient’s name/information).
• Don’t be argumentative.
• Confine yourself to your area of expertise. Strive to be brief and to use common terms.
• Medical offices, facilities, and homes are private property and the media may not be allowed on your property without permission. 

TEMPLATE COMMUNICATIONS:

Reduction of hours or a temporary closure
The current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic means that it is critical we take every precaution possible to stop the spread of the virus in our community. We have made the difficult decision to [temporarily close our facility / limit our hours of operation to XX-XX]. 

We do not make this decision lightly and remain as committed as ever to serving you and all of our patients during this unprecedented period of time. If you have a previously scheduled appointment, we will be in touch as soon as possible to reschedule. We also encourage you to take advantage of our telemedicine system [INSERT DETAILS]. 

As always, if this is an emergency situation, please call 911.

We are committed to doing everything we can to protect you and your loved ones during this challenging time. Please feel free to contact [CONTACT PERSON AND CONTACT INFO] with any questions. Thank you for supporting these efforts to keep our healthcare providers and community safe. 

Elimination of elective surgeries or other elective procedures 
The current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic means that it is critical we take every precaution possible to stop the spread of the virus in our community.  As per the CDC and state/federal guidelines, we are temporarily cancelling all elective surgeries and other procedures. 

We do not make this decision lightly and remain as committed as ever to serving you and all of our patients during this unprecedented period of time. If you have a previously scheduled appointment, we will be in touch as soon as possible to reschedule.

As always, if this is an emergency situation, please call 911.

We are committed to doing everything we can to protect you and your loved ones during this challenging time. Please feel free to contact [CONTACT PERSON AND CONTACT INFO] with any questions. Thank you for supporting these efforts to keep our healthcare providers and community safe. 

Elimination or reduction of visitation hours
The current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic means that it is critical we take every precaution possible to stop the spread of the virus in our community. Protecting our patients’ and providers’ health and safety is our number one priority. We have made the difficult decision, in concert with direction from the federal/state government and CDC, to restrict all visitors and volunteers (including family and friends) from visiting, [except for end-of-life situations].

We recognize the importance of connecting with your loved ones during such a vulnerable time. We are here to help support and facilitate a variety of telecommunication methods which include telephone, email, text messages, video chat or social media interaction. 

Rest assured that we are committed to doing everything we can to protect you and your loved ones during this challenging time. Please feel free to contact [CONTACT PERSON AND CONTACT INFO] with any questions. Thank you for supporting these efforts to keep our community safe. 

A patient or provider in your facility has tested positive for COVID-19
We can confirm that [XX number of patients/providers] have tested positive and are being treated for COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We are in close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps at this time and our staff is following the recommended preventative actions. 

Our clinical staff is trained on how to identify, isolate, and treat patients with COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses. We follow CDC-recommended infection prevention precautions, so we can offer the best possible treatment to those infected with a contagious illness and prevent transmission to other patients, families, and staff. 

Rest assured that we are committed to doing everything we can to protect you and your loved ones during this challenging time. Please feel free to contact [INSERT CONTACT PERSON AND CONTACT INFO] with any questions. Thank you for supporting these efforts to keep our community safe. 

General guidelines to consider reinforcing with relevant communications
To help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like COVID-19 follow the below instructions from the Centers for Disease Control:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
• Avoid contact with people who are sick
• Practice social distancing as recommended by the CDC 
• Stay home when you are sick
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces