Engaging patients in healthcare is much easier said than done. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were scared to go to the doctor or hospital for fear of exposure.

In spite of the risk the pandemic poses, it is still necessary to monitor overall health. Preventive visits, like regular checkups, cancer screenings, chronic disease follow-ups, and mental health maintenance are imperative.

In essence, low attendance of preventive visits is a problem for a variety of reasons. We will offer a few solutions for engaging patients in healthcare despite ever-changing circumstances.

The importance of preventive visits

Annual physicals

No matter age or health status, engaging in healthcare and preventive visits is crucial. Research has shown that both pediatricians and primary care providers are noting a decrease in those scheduling the recommended annual physicals.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer adults have scheduled and attended preventive visits. In fact, nearly half of all adults have not partaken in the recommended screenings and assessments since 2020. This has led to later diagnoses of chronic illnesses, cancer, and age-related illnesses. Of all patients on Medicare, only 15 percent actually take advantage of their wellness exam.

Research also supports the fact that pediatric patients are falling behind in immunizations and yearly physicals. In fact, in May of 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics released the #CallYourPediatrician campaign. This campaign aims to encourage parents to schedule wellness checks for their children.

Cancer screenings

We know the best cancer outcomes generally occur when it is caught in early stages. Having this knowledge doesn’t make it easier to engage patients in healthcare. Delayed care due to the pandemic has been linked to poorer outcomes for patients recovering from a variety of cancer diagnoses.

Although there has been an increase in preventive visits since 2020, the numbers are still not up to where they should be. Research from the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the cancer screening rate is 9.4 million patients lower than it was in 2019.

Solutions for engaging patients in healthcare

Patients generally view the preventive wellness visit as a chore that needs to be completed. Let’s consider how we can make these appointments more meaningful for them and you.

Schedule time for chart reviews

Face-to-face time with patients is incredibly valuable. It is during this time that many patients share important information regarding their current health status. It would be a shame to spend this time reviewing their past history and miss the opportunity to speak about their current concerns. Not only will you be missing out on critical patient information, but your patients will leave their appointment feeling frustrated and unheard.

Instead, consider reviewing patient charts before entering the exam room (or start a video visit). This may be an ambitious decision, and would certainly impact your workflow, but there is no doubt that your patients (and you!) would reap the benefits of this change. They will also most certainly engage in healthcare decisions that feel pertinent to their wellbeing.

Even further, you could be sure to reschedule an appointment if it relies on delayed tests, screenings, or lab results. This may take more time on the front end, but it will save everyone’s time in the long run.

Use your resources

Incorporate all of your tools into your workflow. This may mean using medical assistants to their full extent, or allowing technology to do the heavy lifting. Consider using features like those OhMD offers, like Autopilot, Broadcast and Forms.

An association between the use of telehealth and cancer screening rates have a positive correlation. Although COVID-19 caused a decrease in the amount of patients receiving medical attention in-person, patients who used telehealth were still able to consult with medical professionals. This led to a higher likelihood of screenings for these patients when compared to those who didn’t make use of telehealth opportunities.

Connect with patients

Why does it often feel like the moment someone asks “Any questions?” that the brain loses its capacity for thought? We’re not neuroscientists, so we don’t have an answer. However, we do have a solution: give patients the opportunity to reach out to you when their brain reboots.

Allowing your patients to text you with any questions is a game-changer. Texting is such a ubiquitous tool, accessed by people everywhere that the majority of people make use of on a daily basis. Satisfy and engage patients in healthcare by being accessible.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania studied BIPOC patients who have a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. The data revealed that these patients are far more likely to share their BP with a provider via text than through a patient portal. These findings emphasize the importance of using patient-preferred technology to communicate.

Consistent communication opportunities also decrease the amount of unnecessary visits your patients will schedule. Rather than coming into the office, they can ask for recommendations or next steps via text.

Keep communication open

Consider extending the length of your wellness checks. Engage your patients in healthcare by showing genuine interest in their wellbeing without a ticking clock. Envision using the wellness visit to counsel and support your patients.

Whatever tools or tactics you employ, remember that a large part of the patient experience is predicated on the relationship the patient has with the care provider. Keep empathy at the forefront of your interactions whether you are face-to-face or simply trying to remind your patients that you are there to support them.

See how simple patient communication can be with two weeks of free HIPAA compliant texting and all the other OhMD tools!