Mike Lauf, president and CEO of CCHC, shares important insights from our Patient and Family Advisory Council
Earlier this summer, we reached out to our Patient and Family Advisory Committee to gauge the public’s comfort level using healthcare services in the era of COVID-19 and try to learn how we can bolster our patients’ confidence around using our services.
The committee, known as PFAC, is a roughly 2,000-member panel of Cape Cod residents who have agreed to receive occasional questionnaires from Market Street on behalf of CCHC. The group is a cross-section of ages, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds, and about 15-30 percent of the members typically participate in any given survey.
The questionnaire findings gave us better insight into our patients’ attitudes around healthcare in the COVID-19 era and have helped us tailor and improve our responses.
First, a little about what the survey found.
PFAC members said they feel nearly as comfortable visiting their primary care provider as they feel about going to the grocery store this summer, but they are not yet fully confident about being admitted to the hospital. A few of the other findings include:
- Consumers have an overall positive image of Cape Cod Healthcare.
- Patients are generally comfortable returning for routine types of healthcare.
- The public trusts CCHC for healthcare information and think it is doing a good job meeting the needs of the community.
Overall, the survey results and discussion indicated that people feel safest going to individual healthcare providers and facilities in this order, from most safe to least safe: Primary care providers, then outpatient centers, then urgent care centers, then hospitals and, lastly, emergency rooms.
About half of the group said they remain skeptical that it would be safe to use one of our hospitals. Their biggest concern, according to the findings, is that they will come into contact with someone who has the virus and it will somehow spread to them.
Additional PFAC feedback
The PFAC weighed in on other aspects of healthcare during COVID-19. Other findings include:
- Email from physicians is most preferred, followed by a phone call message, with a moderate level of detail about precautions in place
- A desire for continued offering and promotion of virtual care to keep consumers engaged in the system
- Recent use of telehealth is strong, as is the interest in continuing this type of care in the future.
- Preference for CCHC is driven mostly by:
- Familiarity, reputation, prior experience
- Quality of care overall and quality of doctors and nurses
- Consumers want a moderate level of detail about what healthcare systems are doing to keep patients safe. Moderate level of detail is defined as: I want to know some specifics about the measures that are being carried out
“Consumers worry that while they and healthcare providers may take appropriate precautions to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, other patients may be less careful,” Market Street reported in a summary of the PFAC findings. “The large majority of consumers want hospitals and providers to take precautions such as those emphasized in the media: mask-wearing, disinfecting surfaces and limiting contact between people.”
While these findings were not overly surprising, they do reinforce the need to continue the measures we have taken to keep our patients and staff safe. We at CCHC and the healthcare industry, in general, have learned a lot since the pandemic emerged in the U.S. nearly six months ago. We’ve learned so much from all the experiences across the world, and we know that when you take specific precautions upon entry to our organization, the chance of you spreading COVID-19 or any other communicable disease decreases exponentially. We understand how to clean rooms effectively and disinfect all of our surfaces. We understand how to prevent cross-pollination between healthy and sick patients.
With your help, we are leaving no stone unturned in implementing and reinforcing prevention and disinfection measures. Whether it be the masking of our patients and staff, the triage before you enter the building, the isolation rooms, the aggregation of COVID-19-positive cases and patients in negative-pressure environments – we are paying detailed attention to every aspect of our health system.
We have become experts in mitigating the spread of this horrific virus, and we must make sure our patients know that when they come to our facilities, they will be safe, with the very latest in infection and disease prevention protocols in place.
We also understand that, based on the public’s greater comfort level going to their primary care provider, that our PCP offices must help their patients understand that our hospital-based and other CCHC-based procedures are safe. We are relying on everyone to help direct patients to the detailed information we have on our website that gives up-to-date COVID-19 information and conveys the specific steps we are taking to prevent the transmission of the virus.
Information is power, and we must educate the public about how we are fighting this disease.
While we have taken extensive steps to ensure we are doing all we can to prevent and vanquish this virus, our protocols are constantly being reviewed and updated as new information comes along. Until we end the pandemic, we’re going to work harder to ensure that we have the necessary supplies to not only manage the day-to-day, but to manage an unforeseen surge as well.
We have learned a lot about COVID-19 and we’re much better because of it, but we still have a ways to go. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all of our physicians, nurses and employees for doing such an incredible job curbing the outbreak in our area. As of this writing, we have three COVID-19-positive patients between the two hospitals, and while the positive tests are creeping up, we have maintained a 1 percent positive rate in Cape-wide testing.
Going forward, we must double-down on our commitment. I was asked recently whether I feel comfortable with all we are doing around COVID-19 and I answered that I’m never going to feel comfortable. Our job is to try to do better each and every time. Our job is to make sure that our patients – and our doctors and employees - can come in and feel safe and know that they, and you, are going to be protected.