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How your providers and practice staff talk about COVID-19 vaccines might make all the difference

Insight Article - February 10, 2021

Patient Engagement

Population Health

Policies & Procedures

MGMA Staff Members
The trusted voices of medical group physicians, clinical team members and staff have the potential to determine how well the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines goes in the coming months.

Nurses and medical doctors represented two of the three most-trusted professions among Americans prior to the pandemic, per Gallup’s annual survey,1 and both sets of medical workers saw their honesty and ethics scores rise to record levels in a December 2020 Gallup survey.2

So when it comes to advice about COVID-19 vaccinations, patients are listening to what frontline healthcare workers have to say. Though nearly 7 out of 10 Americans (69%) plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine (according to the latest Harris Poll data),3 there are still those who are hesitant and likely will turn to a trusted clinician for information.

These results join a flurry of other efforts to determine levels of vaccine hesitancy in the healthcare industry and the public. For example, recent data from Surgo Foundation suggests 15% of healthcare workers who have been offered an authorized COVID-19 vaccine have refused it.4

Patient education and outreach strategies

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) December 2020 vaccine monitor survey found 27% of Americans said they probably (12%) or definitely (15%) would not get a vaccine, even if it were free and deemed safe by scientists.5

The following best practices and resources can help medical group practices understand patient concerns and develop the right set of engagement and education tactics to have effective conversations about COVID-19 vaccines:

Understand the most-hesitant demographics: Views on vaccines will vary among political leanings, age groups, geography, race and ethnicity and even essential worker status, and not all the concerns are the same. Historically underserved populations may be leery of the safety of a vaccine and worried about possible side effects, whereas rural patients may be hesitant simply because they believe the seriousness of the coronavirus is exaggerated.6
  • Read more about efforts by hospitals and health systems to cross cultural divides to educate patients in underserved areas and build trust in COVID-19 vaccination (via Modern Healthcare, subscription required).
  • Learn how a “return to normalcy” is a main factor for many Americans, based on a survey about how different media are effective in sharing vaccine education messages.
Find effective messages and messengers: While rural patients are just as likely to know someone who tested positive for or died from coronavirus as urban and suburban patients, KFF data shows about four in 10 rural Americans (39%) are not worried they or someone in their family will get sick from coronavirus. However, the same survey found most rural Americans (86%) trust their own doctor or healthcare provider to provide reliable information about COVID-19 vaccines.7

KFF President and CEO Drew Altman, PhD, suggests that healthcare workers should adopt messaging regarding the seriousness of the pandemic that likens immunization efforts to the Second Amendment: “[T]he vaccine is a way to protect you, your family and your way of life,” he writes.8

Identify who wants a shot and who does not: If your practice is administering vaccines, provide a waitlist for eager patients ready to get their shot. If a patient does not want to join a waitlist for the vaccine when it becomes available, consider asking to put them on a list for outreach so that a team member can call them or otherwise share education on the benefits and safety of the vaccine. For patients who refuse the outreach list, ensure someone listens to their stated objections to get a firm sense of what common issues are being raised so you can develop better scripting and education.

Prepare your team: Have a list of reasons to get the vaccine that will resonate with patients, which can be communicated by trusted physicians and other clinical providers, such as the desire to hug family members or to go on vacation later this year. For some patients, just mentioning that immunization could help lead to a “return to normalcy” is persuasive.

COVID-19 vaccination patient education/engagement resources

Notes:

  1. Reinhart RJ. “Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, Ethics.” Gallup. Jan. 6, 2020. Available from: http://bit.ly/360eZCZ.
  2. Saad L. “U.S. Ethics Ratings Rise for Medical Workers and Teachers.” Gallup. Dec. 22, 2020. Available from: http://bit.ly/3qEmvet.
  3. Bulik BS. “Good news for shot-makers: COVID-19 vaccine confidence leaps to 69%, Harris Poll finds.” Fierce Pharma. Jan. 21, 2021. Available from: http://bit.ly/3qH9bGd.
  4. Perna G. “Data dive: 15 percent of health care workers refuse to take vaccine.” Health Evolution. Jan. 20, 2021. Available from: http://bit.ly/3c1UhGt.
  5. Hamel L, Kirzinger A, Muñana C, Brodie M. “KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: December 2020.” KFF. Dec. 15, 2020. Available from: http://bit.ly/2LWz0TZ.
  6. Kirzinger A, Muñana C, Brodie M. “Vaccine Hesitancy in Rural America.” KFF. Jan. 7, 2021. Available from: http://bit.ly/3iAofTr.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Altman D. “The Challenge of Vaccine Hesitancy in Rural America.” KFF. Jan. 12, 2021. Available from: http://bit.ly/360s7rG.
 
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