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Why the Flexibility and Immediacy of Technology Are Essential To My Patients' Satisfaction

by Craig Tidwell, MD, obstetrics and gynecology

Just about every obstetrician has heard it: “I think that I'm 21 weeks," or "I think that I'm 26 weeks." When a pregnant patient walks into the labor and delivery or the emergency room, I can’t rely on “think.” I must be able to pull that information up immediately and be able to tell them, "No, you're actually this many weeks. This medicine is safe to take during this trimester, but not this trimester.” Patient communication and instant access to patient information are essential aspects of any care — in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, I believe they take on a whole new level of importance.

In labor and delivery emergency situations, I have the ability to find a patient's information in the EHR within less than 30 seconds, including the time it takes me to enter my username and password into my smartphone or tablet. Considering the urgency of the situation, that is necessary. Before adopting a cloud-based electronic health record system, I would have to drive to the office, many times at 2 or 3 a.m., to retrieve that information. That is unacceptable.

Equally as important as rapid access to a patients’ information is making sure those same patients are happy. What does that mean to me? Primarily two things: 1. Not making people wait an inordinate amount of time to see me or get answers; and 2. allowing them to contact me anytime, anywhere. Our patient portal has enabled us to do just that.

Being able to exchange messages with patients through the portal converts a 15-minute process that goes from patient to nurse to doctor to nurse to patient — just to treat a simple urinary tract infection — into something that can be completed in less than a minute over the portal. Without involving a nurse, freeing him or her up in the office to be more efficient with other responsibilities. The patients really appreciate this process, especially if they were just in the office for their yearly physical. The opportunity to leave a message on the patient portal, and know that it will be answered by their doctor or nurse, provides patients enormous satisfaction which, as we all know, is very important in this day and age.

As an OB/GYN, I need my patients to feel comfortable about contacting me, and know they can do so whenever needed. This is so important because many of my patients are dealing with the unknown. They have lived their whole lives without a child inside their abdomen and now they're pregnant. They're scared. They hear one person say one thing, they read another opinion on the Internet, and they want to know their doctor’s opinion. Sometimes, pregnant patients have a lot on their mind at the office, forget to ask me a question before they leave, and know their next appointment may not be for four weeks. Having the ability to ask me a question over the patient portal is invaluable in their mind, and mine.

I feel that our bond with patients sets us apart from other practices. But our technology allows us to strengthen that bond year after year with our growing patient population.

Watch this short clip from Dr. Tidwell to learn more about how he continues to provide exceptional personal and quality care and remain independent.

Dr. Tidwell is an athenahealth client and an OB GYN at the Associates in Obstetrics & Gynecology in Dalton, GA.

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