I’m sitting in a drive-through, and they said I would need to wait just a little longer. No, I’m not waiting on my morning coffee or a sandwich — I’m waiting for results from my COVID-19 test.
As I sit here, I recognize that most hospitals are doing the absolute best they can. But this is still an opportunity to make the patient experience smoother. By now, all hospitals have something on their website for patients who want to be tested.
This page will make people either love you or hate you. It’ll definitely be the latter if your information about testing is buried among a brain dump of other content about COVID-19.
Why Is Your COVID-19 Testing Page So Critical?
To avoid unnecessary phone calls and emails: Patients should not have to waste time asking for information that should be easy to find on your website.
To keep people updated: The availability of tests, the quality of the test, and the timeliness of results should all clearly be communicated in real-time.
Here are 5 key ingredients for a COVID-19 testing page.
1. It’s high and mighty on the website.
If I have to search beyond one click, I’m annoyed. Why? Because I have a fever. I’m coughing. I’m short of breath, and my joints ache. Plus, these kids are still demanding my attention. I need this information quickly, and I don’t have time for a clunky experience.
The page about getting a COVID-19 test should be:
- A separate page — I don’t want to have to scroll through all your other content for it
- Accessible from the home page, like in your utility or primary navigation, and all your social media
- A URL that’s easy to remember, like www.hospital.com/covid-19-test. Put that on your phone tree intro, your app, radio ads, and wherever else it’ll fit
2. It contains easy-to-find information for scheduling a COVID-19 test.
As soon as a patient clicks on the designated COVID-19 testing page, they should find clear information about scheduling. This process varies from hospital to hospital, and it’s important to eliminate the guessing game.
To start, use visual elements to compel the reader’s eyes to critical information, such as who is eligible for a test.
In addition, prepare patients with the following scheduling information:
- An easily-identifiable phone number that’s hyperlinked since I’m probably on my phone.
- Phone tree instructions. If patients need to press option #1 to schedule a test, put that on the web page. I don’t want to listen to your 5-minute phone tree, even if your options have recently changed.
- Expected wait times. If you’re scheduling people the same day, put that on the page. If it’s two or three days for a test, put that, too. I don’t want to go through the whole scheduling and triage process only to find out I’ll be waiting longer than expected for a test. Plus, it’s amazing how much more receptive people are when you give them a heads up.
- What information they’ll need to have available, such as birth date, address, insurance information, and even car information for drive-through testing. Remember, some people might be calling for a loved one. They’ll need to gather this information ahead of time so they’re not scrambling for it on the phone.
- Testing location, including drive-through services or clinic locations, and maybe even a picture of the entrance.
Every bit of frustration you can take out of this experience is helpful.
3. It explains what to expect during a COVID-19 testing appointment.
Let patients know exactly what will happen at their appointment.
To begin, don’t assume patients know how they should show up for COVID-19 testing:
- Do they need to be wearing a mask or gloves?
- Should they come alone, or is it okay if they bring someone with?
- Should they have their insurance card with them?
- Are you doing nasal swabs? How long does it take and will it hurt?
Set all of these expectations up front.
4. It provides information about COVID-19 test results — and what patients should do with them.
Patients will, understandably, be anxious about their results. Explain your hospital’s process for reporting results so they know what to expect — and when:
- Do you do same-day results, or is it going to take 3 days?
- What should patients do — and not do — while waiting? Do they need to act like they have COVID-19 until they know for sure?
Put this info on your testing page, so the patient or their caregiver can refer to it. With this fever, I won’t remember.
Finally, be clear about what their results mean. What requires strict quarantine? When are they able to go back to their normal social distancing routine? What is the difference between quarantine and isolation? This information is exactly how we stop the spread.
5. It includes information found on any COVID-19-related print materials you provide to your patients.
After COVID-19 testing, many hospitals are providing patients with a print out about their next steps. This is only helpful for about 5 minutes.
My kids—who are home all day—are going to destroy this piece of paper.
Also, if there is information that a loved one needs to know, a COVID-19 positive patient shouldn’t be handing pieces of paper around. That just put someone else at risk.
The information on the printout and the website should be verbatim on the website. If the hard copy says to stay home for 14 days, but the website says 7, I’m confused. I really don’t need this kind of confusion right now.
There is enough uncertainty regarding COVID-19 at the moment. If a patient suspects they may have COVID-19, they shouldn’t need to search to find the information they need to get tested. Your hospital’s website is either helping or not.