1/28/2021

Make Every Pregnant Patient Feel Like You Make House Calls

Healthwise Communications Team

Pregnancy may seem like the most routine health condition on the planet, but for a first-time mother, there’s nothing routine about it. While clinicians might see hundreds of pregnancies during their career, an expecting mom just wants to know more about her pregnancy.

 

During the best of times, a pregnant woman has nearly 10 months to dwell on thousands of questions and fears running through her brain:

  • “Is my baby growing?”
  • “What will labor be like?”
  • “Which tests do I need?”
  • “Am I eating the right foods?”

The coronavirus pandemic has only fueled the fire, giving parents even more “what ifs” to think about while they lie in bed at night:

  • “How can I avoid getting COVID-19?”
  • “Is it safe to have my baby in a hospital right now?”
  • “Doctors are busy with the virus. Should I bother my provider with my questions?”

These questions and concerns are fairly universal, and clinicians spend a lot of time addressing them with patients. But with the growing popularity of telehealth and other virtual solutions, more and more hospital systems are discovering the value of digital pregnancy programs.

These online suites can engage patients anytime, anywhere, periodically delivering patient education and providing interactive health assessments. A digital platform is especially useful early on in the pregnancy, when appointments are farther apart and patients crave more of a connection with their caregiver. The early months can be frightening and confusing, especially for first-time moms. The consistent touchpoints of a digital program can help these patients feel engaged, proactive, and cared for.

 

A digital program for pregnant mothers guides patients through pregnancy week by week, covering topics such as fetal development, common tests, breastfeeding, and how to have a happy and healthy pregnancy. For an expecting mom—especially one feeling even more isolated than usual due to COVID-19—learning as much as possible about the pregnancy and the baby provides a feeling of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Faced with the choice of staring at a calendar for nine months or taking an active role in their own health education, most expecting parents will choose the latter.

Clinicians also benefit from providing patients with a digital pregnancy program. Because moms are receiving most of their routine health education at home, the time during in-office prenatal visits can be used for more targeted, tailored conversations. Clinician satisfaction and efficiency is improved because that time is spent assessing each patient’s specific needs, and patient outcomes improve because those needs are being heard and addressed.

Various experts are predicting a “COVID baby bust”: a drop of perhaps half a million births in 2021. Hospitals have already reported lower-than-average numbers in 2020 for many parts of the country, so the country was already going to see a slump in numbers, even without the coronavirus. This drop in the coming year means more practices vying for fewer expectant parents’ attention. Providing a digital pregnancy program that’s engaging and valuable is one excellent way to attract new patients and retain current ones.

Ideally, the pregnancy program should extend beyond birth and into the first three months of parenthood (what some sources now refer to as the “fourth trimester”). Including the first 12 weeks postpartum is a natural extension of the journey the patient has been on for the past nine months. This outreach will be especially welcomed by new parents scrambling to care for their tiny new family member, particularly at a time when other family members may not be able to come over and help due to social distancing measures.

 

Just as with the prenatal exams, a digital program allows for more meaningful newborn and postpartum visits. Most routine topics can be covered online at home, rather than using up time during office visits:

  • Car seat usage
  • Overview of routine newborn tests and exams
  • How to tell when the baby is hungry and full
  • How and whether to use formula
  • Common breastfeeding concerns
  • What to do if the baby seems sick
  • When to call for help

The best content at this stage is short, because families with new babies are busy! Brief but frequent messaging is key for these new parents.

If you had all the time in the world, you could sit down with every patient every day and talk them through their questions and concerns. A digital health program is the next-best thing—better, in fact, because it’s as if you’re making house calls directly to wherever your patients are. It’s not too good to be true: It’s the next generation of health care.

Learn more about how digital programs for pregnancy help you engage with and care for your patients, no matter how far apart you are.