Patient engagement and consumer satisfaction have emerged as top strategies for healthcare executives, and the impact extends far beyond happy patients and positive reviews. Engaged patients are more likely to adhere to medications, more likely to participate meaningfully in their own care, and less likely to require readmission to the hospital.
Obstetricians and gynecologists may already be ahead of the curve here. A 2011 study published in Patient Related Outcome Measures revealed that patients view their relationships with their OB/gyns more favorably than with physicians in any other specialty.
Since then, technological advances have only made it easier to connect meaningfully with patients. The following are some of the top contemporary strategies obstetricians and gynecologists can use to engage with patients.
Patients are texting in all other aspects of their professional and personal lives; they expect to text with their care team, as well. In fact, 91 percent of patients surveyed said they’d like to be able to use secure mobile messaging to communicate with healthcare providers.
Text messaging has numerous applications for a medical office, including appointment reminders, delivery of care instructions, and post-visit patient follow-up. It has been shown to improve post-pregnancy hypertension monitoring, and it doubles the odds of medication adherence among middle-aged patients with chronic disease. For patients at all life stages, text messaging offers an easy way to ask questions and seek guidance on symptoms and concerns.
HIPAA patient privacy laws place strong restrictions on standard SMS texting, however, so many EHR and communication platforms offer secure communication tools to enable compliant texting with patients. Look for one that streamlines workflow for nurses and office staff, making it easy for them to check on patients, answer questions and ultimately build relationships.
Electronic Pre-Visit Questionnaires
Health histories can be particularly detailed and complicated for OB/gyn patients. Beginning with young adults who may need to gather details about their mothers’ and grandmothers’ medical histories, to new OB patients with complicated fertility histories, to patients in perimenopause with numerous symptoms, many patients may find it stressful to fill out the required intake forms. In the office, the stress is compounded by the anxiety a patient may be feeling before seeing the doctor, as well as the time pressure of trying to finish the forms before being called back by the nurse.
Online forms can significantly reduce the stress, allowing patients to complete the forms at their leisure, in the quiet comfort of their homes. They are afforded ample time to gather any relevant historical information and to think through their responses. Patients clearly appreciate it: Online pre-visit forms ranked as one of the most-requested patient portal features in a recent survey from Software Advice.
From the office perspective, online forms eliminate data-entry tasks for office staff, reduce the potential for clerical errors, and reduce paper consumption. Even more important, electronic pre-visit questionnaires can improve patient care. A stress-free process for patients likely results in more thorough patient histories, which gives providers much-needed information for more effective treatment.
A 2016 literature review of studies published in PubMed confirmed the efficacy of automated patient reminders and alerts.7 According to the analysis, automated alerts were shown to assist with behavior modification and increase appointment attendance rates. Text messages, specifically, made patients feel more connected to their providers and engaged with their health.
Automated reminders are among the simplest ways to boost patient engagement, as they generally require little or no extra effort from office staff. When paired with active touchpoints such as live text messaging, automated alerts are an effective way to extend patient outreach and keep the lines of communication open.
Eighty percent of Internet users have searched online for health-related topics, according to Pew Research. That means your patients are looking for information—are you able to provide it for them?
Certainly, no one expects their obstetrician or gynecologist to function as a major healthcare content provider. But, the more you can do to answer your patients’ questions—the more your office can serve as a resource for patients—the more effective the doctor-patient relationship will be.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to offer educational materials for patients that don’t require you to have a journalist on staff. Here are some ideas:
- The informational handouts and checklists you’ve already created can be digitized and made available on demand in the patient portal.
- Some EHR platforms offer access to standardized educational materials that can be served up for patients as needed.
- A simple FAQ section on the practice’s website can link out to relevant videos or articles from trusted sources such as the Mayo Clinic or the health system with which your practice is affiliated.
Overall, these four engagement methods have a theme in common: Communication. The most effective engagement tools are those that make it easier for patients to build a relationship with your practice.
Several of these patient-engagement tools are built into the Medgen EHR system. Download our free checklist to make sure you are getting all the features you need from your EHR.