Life is filled with unintended consequences, and right now we are seeing that play out in the health care world. When managing any crisis, let alone COVID-19, a principle goal is to not create another problem along the way.

In a recent conversation with the chief executive officer of a mid-sized hospital system, we arrived at the conclusion that right now health care actually has three crises – managing COVID-19, the financial distress systems are facing and the evolving third issue of patients unable or unwilling to seek their important “non-COVID-19” care at a time when many “elective procedures” have been put on hold.

There is a strong belief among hospital leaders I speak with across the nation, that there is a growing number of “silent deaths” taking place. Treatments delayed, procedures not done and ongoing care not taking place. Much of this is occurring because people are simply afraid to go to the hospital or consult with their doctor.

With some regional exceptions, hospitals in this country are not overrun with COVID-19 patients and have capacity in many cases to refocus on critical, non-COVID-19 patient needs.

Now is a time for true leadership within health care, especially in smaller communities where the hospital can serve as the community’s guiding light and build confidence as communities begin to reopen. If hospitals can demonstrate that it is not only safe, but vitally important for patient care to return, they can serve as an example of how other businesses can see customers return with a sense of confidence.

Almost every hospital system we work with talks about preventive medicine and patient-doctor partnership for good overall health. Right now, any and all efforts to reconnect and restore trust with patients is critical to the overall health and well-being of communities.

Have a plan to “re-engage” with patients, align your staffing needs to accommodate such and work to design appropriate physical space considerations to allow for a safe environment for patients. For more information, I’ve outlined important considerations for health care organizations battling COVID-19 here.

Keep putting the safety and well-being of people first. And for guidance or support with your brand’s communication efforts, Padilla’s COVID-19 Response Team is here to help.

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