Patients across the country expect healthcare providers and clinics to react similarly to the Monkeypox outbreak, including increased safety precautions during in-person appointments, according to a new survey by Weave.

The COVID-19 pandemic made patients acutely aware of how their actions – and those of their healthcare practitioners – can impact their exposure to a virus or disease. Now, as new viruses like monkeypox come into the fold, Weave sought to glean insights into whether patients still have similar health and safety expectations when it comes to mandated protocols at in-office visits with healthcare providers, or if we find ourselves yet again at a crossroad of varying comfortability levels amid a new strand of the virus.

In August 2022, Weave commissioned a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18+ to find out what ranks at the top of patients’ fears related to monkeypox exposure, expectations around what healthcare providers should be doing and sentiments related to practices that haven’t maintained at least some or all Covid-related precautions.

Findings showed that a majority of patients (59%) are taking actions to avoid contracting monkeypox, including wearing a mask in public (38%), followed by washing hands more than previously (36%), avoiding confined public gathering spaces (27%), and decreasing their rate of travel by public transport such as trains, planes and buses (23%).

When asked to rate their level of concern with contracting monkeypox, younger generations were nearly 2x more worried than their more mature counterparts with 40% of Millennials and 42% of Gen Z claiming such, as opposed to just 22% of Baby Boomers. Even still – despite a lack of overwhelming concern reported by this aging demographic – over half (51%) of Baby Boomers still claim to be taking precautions to minimize exposure.

Yet, with heightened attention towards personal safety precaution efforts being made by consumers, an expectation persists when it comes to the patient experience that rests at the hands of healthcare practices continuing to comply with safety measures we’ve become accustomed to since March 2020.  An overwhelming majority (78%) expect at least some level of safety protocol be in place during an in-person healthcare appointment, including:

  1. Wearing a mask (64%)
  2. Social distancing in waiting areas (52%)
  3. Hand sanitizing before entering the office (50%)
  4. Answering screening questions before your appointment (45%)
  5. Temperature checks (35%)
  6. Curbside check-in (12%)

While many of these precautions – that were once considered foreign and inconvenient – coincide with measures initially introduced to stymie the spread of Covid-19, it’s clear that the vast majority of patients now view them as part of the “new normal” and expect them to remain in place as new strands and viruses occur. This guideline for the “new normal” also extends to patient preferences as it relates to communication platforms. If a healthcare provider does change safety guidelines at their practice, the top three methods of communication patients expect are email (29%), closely followed by phone calls (25%) and text (22%).

Over the last 10 years, patients have continued to raise expectations with their providers on how they are communicated with.  The COVID pandemic only amplified the challenges for healthcare providers to appease everyone. However, as new viruses and diseases come into play as we’ve seen with monkeypox, it is evident that safety is the number one priority for patients as they fall back to standard measures of protection like masks, social distancing and more.

In order to keep up with these shifts as healthcare providers, you must make it a priority to create an open line of communication with patients to ensure you’re gathering feedback on what they expect when coming to the office. The best way to do that is with a diverse array of communication tools that allow you to reach patients the way they want to be communicated with – whether that’s email, phone call or text, patients will appreciate access to communication methods that best suit their needs.   (You can learn more about patient communication and engagement over text messages here.)