Posted By Amanda Girard On June 23, 2021
How can your organization start conversations about COVID-19, address the needs of individual communities and pave a path forward to increased vaccination rates? How do you prevent misinformation from creating hesitancy? As public health agencies continue trying to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19, we can use the following tips from public health experts to communicate skillfully about vaccines in order to build trust and confidence in community members.
Make it personal.
Getting vaccinated is a personal decision. Keeping family members safe and healthy is a much more motivating factor than the community, the country, or the economy. Express your concern for the health of your patients and their loved ones, provide information and answer questions so that patients can make an informed decision that’s right for them.
Don’t be judgemental.
Avoid judgemental language when speaking to people who are concerned about taking the vaccine. Being concerned about taking a new vaccine for a new virus is normal. Address reservations by encouraging patients to ask questions and provide answers in ways they understand.
Explain the benefits of getting vaccinated instead of just focusing on the consequences of not doing so. Emphasize that the benefits of getting vaccinated far exceed the risks and remind patients that getting vaccinated is the best step they can take towards returning to normal activities.
Tailor your messages.
When speaking about the risks of declining vaccination, be sure to tailor your message to the patient you are speaking to from your perspective as their healthcare provider.
Build trust through people not organizations.
Recognize that people trust scientists, health and medical experts more so than corporations or government organizations. You can tell patients that nearly all doctors who have been offered the vaccine have taken it. You can also lead by example by encouraging your entire staff to get vaccinated.
Focus on safety.
Many people are concerned about the speed at which COVID-19 vaccines were created. De-emphasize talking about speed; share information about the safety of the vaccine and speak transparently about side effects. You can share with your patients that COVID-19 vaccines have been held to the same rigorous standards as other vaccines and that scientists and researchers have been studying, working with and creating mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) and viral vectors (Johnson & Johnson) for decades.
Speak up against misinformation.
Misinformation will fill the silence if not making an effort to share facts about these vaccines with your patients. Post information in your waiting room, staff break room, common areas, your website and social media platforms. Also, consider sending a letter to your patients with an invitation for them to make an appointment with you.
Use technology to strengthen communication.
Does your health agency have the ability to send automated messages to your patients and community members through your EHR? Reach out to your patients the way they like to receive communications whether via email, phone or text and welcome them in for appointments to discuss their concerns about vaccines with your providers. If you have a patient portal available, be sure to encourage community members to easily schedule their vaccination appointment though the app and to sign up for automated appointment reminders.
The way to move forward with getting your communities fully vaccinated is to open lines of communication and build trust and confidence through information sharing and answering questions. Help your community members make informed decisions to protect themselves and their family members. Increase communication with technology built to help you more easily reach your patients. If your current EHR software does not provide these tools, consider comparing other vendors and whether or not it is time to make a switch.