Automated Check-ins Set an Empathetic Tone by Letting Physicians Lead

If you’ve ever wondered how a digital patient engagement solution like GetWell Loop can communicate with people using the empathetic tone of a physician, the explanation is simple: Empathetic human beings are at the controls.

With empathetic patient engagement, software does not serve as a substitute for the human touch. It enables providers to extend that human touch to more patients than previously possible.

While I may work for a technology company, I’m a physician, and through software I’m reaching more patients than ever before.

As the company’s Medical Director and former clinical content medical writer, it is often my “voice” that patients are hearing when they receive the automated daily check-in from their care team.

My journey to patient engagement

When I was in practice, I saw firsthand how gaps in communication get in the way of optimal health outcomes. There are many situations where providers and patients simply lack the means to communicate regularly.

One example is concussion in the young athlete. As a sports medicine physician, I used to diagnose concussions in high school and college athletes, many of whom took a blow to the head during a Friday night game. If no athletic trainer or other provider was available, many of these athletes would recuperate on their own until Monday, when they could see a doctor if they were still experiencing symptoms.

But the 48-hour period after sustaining a concussion is the most important timeframe for the patient to follow medical advice. Recovery could be prolonged if patients exert themselves too soon, fail to rest enough or experience excessive noise, light, and visual stimuli.

GetWell Loop would have been a great way to keep those patients on track. It’s an incredible tool for keeping in touch with patients to make sure they are on the road to full recovery.

My work at HealthLoop

I became a physician because I have a passion for helping people. But I also have a passion for educating people, and that’s why I later became a medical writer. Over the years I’ve developed educational content for patients and healthcare providers, but now, I can reach more people.

I began my work with HealthLoop (now GetWell Loop) in 2015 as a Clinical Content Medical Writer, and then served as the company’s Medical Director. One of my most important roles has been to write the educational materials we send to patients. It’s my team’s responsibility to properly phrase the questions that patients answer as a part of the automated daily check-in, and to make sure the patients are receiving the right information at the right time.

As a physician, it often frustrated me that I had no easy way to interface with patients once they left my care. Now, I’m instrumental in the daily dialogues facilitated between providers and patients.

Content for care plans

With GetWell Loop, the content for each care plan varies based on the procedure or diagnosis. For example, most care plans for elective procedures will feature questions and information pertaining to the perioperative phase. Pre-op content helps the patient prepare for the procedure and lets them know what to expect. In the post-op phase, we’re again setting expectations in terms of pain, bruising or other symptoms the patients might experience. We also tell them what to watch for and when to contact someone.

The goal is to empower the patient. This is done by presenting material to the patient when it’s appropriate, prompting the patient to either report concerning signs or symptoms and encouraging the patient to maintain adherence to their treatment plans and instructions.

Because the content team is comprised of physicians, we know what timing and frequency is appropriate when it comes to providing the right information to the right patient at the right time. We also know the importance of evidence-based medicine, so we strive to make sure our content is up-to-date in that regard.

For the patient, knowledge is power

People can feel vulnerable and anxious when they are preparing for or recovering from procedures or hospitalizations, and the last thing any patient wants is to be left in the dark.

Patients like to know what to expect and when. They like being reminded about what to do and when.

Although patients vary in terms of how they like information to be presented to them, one of the most popular features of our content is the checklist we present to them. This allows patients to have a clear understanding of what is required of them, in order to prep for a procedure or stay on track for recovery.

But whatever form the content takes—educational materials, checklists or relevant questions—it’s clear what the patients like the most. They like having their care team reach out every day to find out how they’re doing. 

Our future

An educated patient is an empowered patient. A patient who feels heard will be a far happier patient.

There is no downside to daily, empathetic communications between physicians and patients. It benefits patients and improves outcomes, and that’s why GetWell Loop will continue to grow and scale and reach larger numbers of patients.

It may seem like a contradiction to some that a software solution is able to amplify and extend the human empathy that we all associate with physicians. It’s not a contradiction.

With empathetic educators and medical professionals at the controls, we are digitizing empathy so it can benefit more lives.