Quickly sharing information about prevention efforts and disease outbreak can help stop the spread of disease, and reduce the incidence of illness and even death. In addition to immediately reporting details of positive cases to your state and local health departments, ongoing communication and cooperation with officials is crucial.  Equally significant, prompt and effective communication to your residents, staff, and family members should be at the forefront of the facility’s prevention and response plan.

Transparency, speed, and credibility are important when communicating outbreaks that occur in your facility.  Follow these tips for optimal communication:

      • People often remember the first information they hear in an emergency, so the first information they receive should come directly from your facility.
      • Consider writing focused statements that are as detailed as possible without violating HIPPA, to use for communication to your residents, staff, families, and the media.
      • When communicating a positive COVID-19 case, include details such as when the resident was admitted to your facility, when they first exhibited symptoms, when testing was performed, and when you received the results. Even if the cause of the outbreak is unknown, share the facts that are available. This can help you stay ahead of possible rumors.
      • Outline all actions your facility has taken to prevent and reduce the spread of the virus.
      • Provide regular updates at established times to provide a sense of order and reduce fear of the unknown. Establish a mechanism for submitting and responding to questions. Reference the source information that is guiding your management plan to convey how best practice standards are being followed.
      • Consider how you can best convey communication in a timely manner to your residents, staff, and family members. Again, when possible, information should come directly from you before hearing it from others in the community. Some communication options to consider include: creating a listserv or text app communication forum that is used to provide updates to staff and family members, assigning specific staff to contact families to keep them up to date, or offering a phone line with a voice recording that is updated at set times.


Communication Resources:

WHCA Webinar on Crisis Communication-3/20/20

CDC Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication in an Outbreak Fact Sheet

World Health Organization COVID-19 Risk Communication Package for Healthcare Facilities


Blog by Shelly Maffia, MSN, MBA, RN, LNHA, QCP, CHC, Proactive Medical Review

Click here to learn more about Shelly and the rest of the Proactive team.