The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on healthcare systems worldwide. Not only has it changed the way healthcare is delivered, but it has shaken consumer confidence in the very systems themselves. Moving forward, healthcare personnel, including nurses, face the challenging task of working to restore consumer confidence in the healthcare system to ensure people continue to seek the services they need.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Patient Confidence in Healthcare?
As the pandemic wears on, consumer confidence in the healthcare system continues to decline as evidenced by:
- Loss of Confidence in the Quality of the Healthcare System
One of the most significant changes since the pandemic began is the drop in consumer confidence.
Data from a PBS NewsHour-Marist poll shows that between the pandemic's start in early 2020 until September of 2020, 35% of Americans felt their healthcare system was below average globally. This represents a 10% increase from February 2020 when early outbreaks of COVID-19 were initially reported in the U.S.
- Patient Hesitancy to Attend Clinic Visits or Leave Their Home
Since the start of the pandemic, people have been instructed to practice social distancing to prevent contracting and spreading the virus. This has left the public confused and hesitant to leave their homes or attend clinic visits due to fear of contracting the virus.
A recent poll found that 70% of consumers report being "very or somewhat concerned" about going to healthcare facilities for non-COVID-19 concerns due to fear of contracting the virus. In addition, 29% of adults in the U.S. said they have "delayed or avoided seeking medical care" for this reason.
- Higher Levels of Anxiety
According to The Health Care Consumer Response to COVID-19 Survey conducted by Deloitte
early in the pandemic, people reported increased levels of anxiety related to financial and economic concerns in addition to fears they have of possibly contracting or spreading the virus.
- Reluctance to Receive COVID-19 Vaccination
The public's waning confidence in the healthcare system is also evident in their reluctance to receive vaccines against the virus. For example, a survey of 5,537 Americans in December 2020 found that 47% of respondents said they were hesitant to receive the vaccine.
What Can Nurses Do to Restore Patient Confidence in Healthcare?
Because nurses have the highest level of public trust, their knowledge and profession puts them in a unique role to educate the public about COVID-19 vaccination and means of protection against the virus so patients can regain their confidence in accessing healthcare services.
Here are a few ways you, as a nurse, can encourage public trust in healthcare:
- Lead by Example
Nurse leaders and managers, as well as frontline nurses, can help build the public's trust in the COVID-19 vaccination process by willingly receiving their vaccines and sharing their experience in a positive light with their families, colleagues, communities and social media connections as appropriate.
- Provide Education About Safety Precautions That Facilities Are Taking
Hospitals, healthcare facilities and clinics have adopted extensive cleaning and disinfection protocols on a routine basis to help reduce the likelihood of virus transmission. Nurse managers can ensure messaging is prominently displayed in key areas that explain the extent and frequency of the cleaning process in place to reduce virus transmission.
Nurses can also educate the public about other safety precautions organizations are enforcing such as mandatory mask use and temperature screening visitors and patients.
- Be Transparent and Share New Information in a Timely Way
Restoring the public's trust in the healthcare system will take time. However, nurses can help rebuild the public's confidence by being transparent about vaccine information and educating people with new details about the virus as it becomes available.
The healthcare system's inability to stop the rapid spread of the virus has slowly eroded consumer confidence since the pandemic began. As Anthony Barile, M.D. explains, "education and transparency will be key to easing patient anxiety and reconnecting them with the care they need." Nurses play a pivotal role in restoring patient confidence due to the high level of trust they hold.