Children's Hospital COVID-19 Messaging
Examples of children's hospital COVID-19 messaging completed by Boston Children's Hospital. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, is provided in the attached document and detailed in the brief below. Ensuring strong supporting systems, adherence to WHO outbreak communication guidelines, ensuring effective communications, and post crisis review are identified as best practices for pandemic messaging by hospitals. Details on the best practices are also provided in the brief below.
Boston Children's Hospital
- The Boston Children's Hospital was ranked number one overall, and number one in urology, orthopedics, neurology & neurosurgery, nephrology, and cancer, among pediatric hospitals by the U.S. News and World Report in 2020.
- The Boston Children's Hospital has a message about its response to the virus on its homepage, acknowledging that one of its patients has the virus, along with links to learn more about the virus for both visitors and patients. It has set up a hotline for patients or family members who may have questions about the virus.
- On March 9, 2020, the hospital's twitter profile posted a 32-second video featuring Dr. Kristin Moffitt of the Department of Infectious Diseases speaking on what is the virus and how to speak about it with the family.
- The hospital has also provided updates on March 16 and March 17 on the virus to its Facebook page. The update on March 16, canceled non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries, clinic and research visits, admissions, and procedures at all locations. Visitor limitations were extended to a maximum of two adult caregivers to accompany a patient with the update on March 17.
- Examples of the visuals for COVID-19 messaging for Boston Children's Hospital can be found in this document.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
- Founded in 1855, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was ranked second overall by the U.S. News and World Report among pediatric hospitals in the US, and number one for gastroenterology & GI surgery and diabetes & endocrinology.
- The hospital has a banner headline on its home page informing of visitor restrictions as well as a link to a FAQ page for further information on the virus. The FAQ page consists of information presented as answers to 23 questions covering the nature of the virus, risk factors, symptoms, testing, travel advice, and treatment.
- On Facebook, the hospital has two posts dated March 23rd and March 20. The post from March 23, 2020, provides a link to the FAQ page on the virus at the hospital's website. The post from March 20, 2020, provides a link to the hospital page giving advice to parents on how to talk to children on COVID-19.
- Examples of the visuals for COVID-19 messaging for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia can be found in this document.
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
- The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center began providing pediatric medical services in 1883. It was ranked as the overall third best pediatric hospital in the US by U.S. World News and World Report in 2020, and is in the top ten for all ten specialties for which the magazine gave specific rankings.
- The hospital has a red banner at the top of all web pages providing links to questions about COVID-19 as it relates to vital information for patients and families, the new visitor policy, and guidance for community healthcare providers.
- On the page providing information to patients and parents the topics covered include a primer on the disease, visitor FAQs, the difference between testing and screening, how to safely disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently, tips on how to help kids mentally cope, and steps to help ease kids fears and anxieties, among others.
- Guidance is provided for community healthcare providers on how to prepare for the virus, updates, tracking the updates, and an infographic on the virus. The page devoted to the visitor policy has guidelines for outpatients and updated guidelines for visiting during the pandemic.
- Examples of the visuals for COVID-19 messaging for Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical center can be found in this document.
Hospital Messaging Best Practice
Ensure Strong Supporting Systems
- Prior to the development of a pandemic communications plan, whether for a specific pandemic or in general preparations, the hospital should ensure that supporting systems and structures are strong and can support an effective, responsive, and well-coordinated communications plan.
- Before an outbreak, the hospital should ensure its audience is educated about the interventions and strategies to be used during an outbreak. Stakeholder relationships should be identified, built, and leveraged to assist with preparing and educating audiences. Coordinated planning efforts with internal and external partners helps to establish strong communications lines and ensures consistency of information before and during an outbreak.
- Meetings with existing teams for emergency operations are used to review communications strategies, tools, policies, systems and procedures for clearing and approving information, staffing, and other resources. Points in the chain of communications are identified in the process of developing a contact list with current primary and secondary contact information for each entry.
- The hospital should also determine the type of information to be shared with different parties, along with when it should be shared. Platforms appropriate for each type of, and audience for, message should also be identified. Finally, subject matter experts should be identified and included in the contact list forming part of the communications plan created for use with the local news media.
- An example of this in practice is the team work that was put into the development of the training and education guidelines developed at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for use of personal protective equipment.
WHO Outbreak Communication Guidelines
- The World Health Organization (WHO) developed communication principles and guidance that was evidence-based, and field tested to assist with rapid outbreak control with minimal, if any, disruption.
- The communication principles are centered around engendering trust, early announcement of the potential health risk, ensuring transparency in information and processes, listening to, and understanding the risk perception of the public, and ensuring sound planning.
- This forms part of the overall WHO planning guidelines of assessing existing public communication's strategy, identifying communication coordination partners, ensuring guidelines are in place for public announcements and releases of information, gathering information during the outbreak, developing and installing an evaluation mechanism for communications, and ensuring readiness through a training program.
- An example of this in practice is the measures taken by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
- During a pandemic, communications should be early, empathetic, accurate and effective.
- Early communications impedes the ability of misinformation and rumors to take hold and create fear and confusion. Empathetic communication is a communication that is concerned, and that reassures, empowers and calms the receiver. Accurate information provides facts, and effective communication builds understanding and guides stakeholders in their response to the threat.
- Measures to be taken include keeping informed about the wider situations, providing implementation instructions, promoting preventative actions, ensuring frequent communications of simple, credible, accurate, consistent and time sensitive communications to all points in the communication chain, and monitoring and evaluation of efforts and implementing of change communications as needed.
- An example of this in practice is provided on the web page dedicated to the COVID-19 virus on the website of the American Association of Hospitals. There is information on the protection of workers, insurance coverage and reimbursement, public sector guidelines, information for patients and communities, and member resources.
- Once the crisis has passed, the hospital should follow-up with internal and external partners, and other stakeholders to review how the communication's strategy performed during the crisis.
- Phasing out of and ending of communications criteria should be completed with partners and stakeholders. What worked well, and what did not work well, should be identified, and where applicable, amended. Performance data should also be reviewed to inform changes to, and new, communications strategies.
- Communications plan evaluation measures include gathering feedback on performance, discussion on the elements of the plan that worked and that did not work, determinations of target audience reach, and identification of additional resources.