Overcoming Patient Fear and Its Effect on Communication

Illustration of a man sits holding his head in his hands while a big scary shadow looms behind him

It is undeniable that COVID-19 has severely impacted our nation and at an alarming pace.  Some may even argue that the fear of COVID-19 affecting our nation is worse than the virus itself.

Whether that is true or not, every industry in America has been impacted by COVID-19 – primarily in a negative way – and a few in a positive way. Schools have been affected, travelers have been quarantined, and face masks, hand soap and hand sanitizer are nearly impossible to find.

So, what can we learn from this powerful consumer motivator called fear?

First, let’s take a moment to understand it. Fear is a basic human response that has helped our species survive the course of time.

Horrible pandemics have plagued this earth in the past but the basic, primal instinct to fight or flight has helped humans survive even the most adverse conditions.

While fear can cause irrational behavior and thoughts, it also drives people to invent, strategize and give birth to new ideas that solve problems and save lives.

Fear is a necessity of life. However, irrational fear is a very difficult thing to contain in a world gone viral where online news and blogs prevail.

Fear can destroy the reputation of even the most elite organizations or well-respected people. It has the power to bring down an entire industry in just a matter of days.


Communication Should Be at the Top of Your List

When it comes to battling the fear of COVID-19 in your industry, your business, or your community, communication should be at the top of your list.

Upfront, honest and accurate communication is vital throughout all public relation efforts prior to, and especially in the midst of, this crisis.

Communicate the truth. Communicate it quickly. Communicate it often.

Remember, whoever says it first is generally believed. Honest, consistent and truthful information is what people seek.

Whoever said the truth isn’t always that simple? Well, it should be.

Consumer fear is driven by misinformation and feeling as though important information is being intentionally withheld.

Bring together the decision makers from all departments in your business immediately and determine your response to the current crisis.

Make a plan.


  • Talking points: both internal and external
  • An effective spokesperson
  • Appropriate collateral to dispense talking points
  • Media channels to dispense information to such as traditional media, social media, website, blogs, etc.

Put yourself in the shoes of your patient or potential patient. Always try to see things from their perspective.


Learn more about steps your facility can take to develop a successful public relations strategy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Learn More!

Choose your words carefully.

Don’t make the same mistake Richard Nixon did when responding to allegations of the Watergate Scandal. His infamous words were, “I am not a crook.” Immediately the American public equated him with being a crook.

Words matter.

They must be honest and conveyed sincerely. Whether the fear of COVID-19 prevails, you have the ability and the responsibility to your patients to convey accurate information.

It’s no secret that in healthcare you are often faced with the task of having difficult conversations with patients.  You are trained and skilled in this area.

One thing I think we are all learning, however, is that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a whole different type of “difficult” conversations you need to have with patients and it’s changing the way you have those conversations with them.

Whether patients come directly to you for regular care or they are referred to your facility for procedures, COVID-19 is changing the way you communicate.

Whether you are a doctor, a nurse, a front desk receptionist or a volunteer, COVID-19 is changing the way you communicate.

So, stop, take a deep breath, and think through your messaging.  Then, communicate the truth. Communicate it quickly and communicate it often.

You got this!

POSTED ON: April 23, 2020
By Kimberly Winkleman | Marketing

About the Author:

As the COO of PatientX, Kimberly wears many hats. She’s a delegator, a doer, a cheerleader, and a cracker of whips, but what sets her apart is her achieving, go-getter spirit. Kimberly is heavily involved in nearly every project PatientX undertakes, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. As a proud maximizer, she relishes the daily opportunity to help her team members and clients perform at their highest level. Throughout her sixteen-year career, Kimberly has served as an Executive Director for two non-profits while also running two campaigns in South Dakota, and she has experience in all facets of public relations, marketing, executive management, leadership development, public speaking, and event planning. Her love of people and helping others succeed is apparent in her work at PatientX and throughout her life and career.