Healthcare is up and running again, but not all patients are coming through the door. During the spring’s initial surge of COVID-19 cases, patients were advised to postpone annual exams and screenings until the spread of COVID-19 slowed down. Although healthcare services have since resumed, some patients continue to be reluctant to receive care.
According to the Commonwealth Fund, from March 15-June 20, there was a -28% decline in obstetrics/gynecology appointments compared to what is typical. Since mid-June appointment numbers have increased, but they are not at pre-pandemic levels, resulting in a persistent gap in women’s care.
Women’s wellness exams are critical to preventing chronic and life-threatening conditions. Effectively engaging women in care despite barriers to getting an exam is paramount.
Effective patient communications and frictionless experiences are key to unlocking engagement challenges. Perfecting this combo is what drives patients into a clinic, even in a pandemic. The result: appointment attendance increases and women’s health improves.
So, what does effective communication look like during COVID-19?
Women’s Health Communications During COVID-19 Must Be…
There are behavioral barriers and cognitive biases keeping patients from receiving care during COVID-19. These include:
- Present Bias: The tendency to give more weight to what we’re experiencing now than what may happen to us in the future. Patients may struggle to appreciate the future benefits of getting an exam now when virtual learning and working simultaneously is the current main focus. Adding in an exam for health benefits down the road isn’t front and center. It isn’t a priority.
- Loss Aversion: Losses loom larger than gains. Patients who view the risk of COVID-19 infection as being greater than the reward of early cancer detection are inclined to kick the exam can down the road.
- Messenger Effect: We are heavily influenced by who delivers a communication. Patients require a trusted messenger who provides valid, reliable information about COVID-19 precautions. It bolsters their confidence in the healthcare experience being safe during a high-risk, uncertain time. Without it credibility is lost, patients dismiss the call to action and, in the worst-case scenario, are further disengaged.
The risks with COVID-19 are layered. Patients fear contracting the virus. They also fear spreading it to friends and family members, particularly those with fragile immune systems. Some patients are concerned about the COVID-19 risk of going to a single healthcare appointment, which may lead to more appointments if the first exam returns abnormal results.
It is important to account for COVID-specific barriers and biases in all patient communications. It leads with empathy, signaling to patients you’re attuned with what is dominating their current situation.
Due to present bias, many patients may not see a routine, annual exam as a priority. They don’t feel sick or have present health concerns, so why schedule an appointment?
The answer, of course, lies in the long-term benefits of recommended exams and screenings. It is important to present information about the importance of wellness exams in a way patients can understand the risks associated with not participating.
For example, Dr. Lisa Larkin, internal medicine and women’s health specialist and founder of Ms. Medicine, shared with HealthyWomen that women with a strong family history of cancer or women showing symptoms should “consider it essential to keep up with screening appointments.”
Women’s health communications should help patients determine their individual risk and provide helpful self-care steps to remain healthy.
Just as each patient has a different family history and different predispositions to certain types of cancer, there are unique barriers preventing them from taking action toward better health. This is why some patients respond positively to reminders for exams and screenings, and others respond negatively.
Effective communication overcomes an individual’s unique barriers to action, moving each person forward along their individual health journey. Lirio helps health systems do this.
Through behavioral reinforcement learning, Lirio’s behavior change AI platform processes millions of data elements and cross-references them with behavioral reinforcement cues to produce hyper-personalized messages to effectively overcome each woman’s unique barriers to having an exam and screening. This is deployed at scale to move every woman within a population towards better health.
Lirio promotes women’s health holistically. We partner with your organization to define what you are currently recommending patients do. We review those communications and the paths patients take to receive care. We use behavioral science to improve your communications and reduce excessive steps and friction in a patients’ path. This ensures the greatest chance all patients get to the care they require. Recommended improvements are coupled with Lirio’s hyper-personalized messages, creating a holistic, engaging experience for optimal success.
Watch Our Recent Webinar
We know women’s wellness is closely integrated with the health of a community, even and especially in the midst of a pandemic. So, how can health systems leverage technology to reduce barriers for patients, expand opportunities for virtual care, and increase patient portal engagement?
Check out our recent webinar, “Lessons from a Pandemic: Moving Healthcare Forward for All,” to learn more. Lirio COO Marten den Haring spoke with Meghan Aldrich, Vice President – Women’s Health Services, Tara Hillegeer, Director Patient Access – Communication Center, and David Meintel, Vice President – IS&T Business Intelligence, for Rochester Regional Health (RRH), about the organization’s response to COVID-19. RRH accelerated its expansion to telemed and saw a significant response in patient engagement, resulting in a more integrated Population Health focus for a community deeply impacted by health disparities.
Other readers viewed:
Let’s Get Hyper-Personal: How Behavior Change AI Supports Population Health
3 Ways to Get Patients on Your Health Portal for Better Engagement
How to Get Back on Track with Population Health Post COVID-19
Want to learn more about how Lirio’s behavioral engagement solution utilizes behavioral science and machine learning to help organizations motivate the people they serve to achieve better outcomes?