Our guest blogger today is Deb Deaulieu. If you read practice management trade publications, you may recognize her name. Deb is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor who covers physician practice management topics for the Massachusetts Medical Society and FiercePracticeManagement.
I love to give Deb guest post spots for several reasons. For starters, she has been writing about practice management issue for about 10 years. So she knows the reality of our circumstances. And the other reason I like love to give her the microphone, so to speak, is because she is a mom of two young children (I believe they are 18-months apart).
Deb fits right smack in the middle of our core demographic. Thus her perspective is invaluable. Not only does she know our business from a practice management perspective, but she is also parent of young children.
Now, many of us are parents of young children too. But our perspective is different because we are on the inside.
In this post, she gives us some really interesting tips that we can do in our practices to help new families have a better experience. Enjoy!
Now that my son is almost six, I can’t imagine calling the pediatrician’s office more than a few times a year. But in the beginning, it was at least weekly—even though, other than a serious case of gas accompanied by a foul mood, I had a perfectly healthy baby.
Nonetheless, when my son was about six months old, we ended up finding a new doctor with whom we’ve been happy ever since. Maybe that original doctor-parent pairing was never meant to be, but there are several ways that relationship might have been saved, or at least ended sooner:
A more structured prenatal interview.
I did what the books instructed, and scheduled time to meet with pediatricians while I was still pregnant.
The trouble, though, was that having never dealt with an actual newborn infant of my own before, I had no idea what questions I should ask. Most of my mind was still focused on the pregnancy and impending delivery.
With absolutely no framework for addressing what would come next, it wasn’t helpful for me to guide the interviews, which ended up being woefully generic. One of the areas that first doctor and I were less than compatible, for example, was that of medication and pain relief.
Had the practice used some type of standard form or questionnaire for expecting parents to fill out, the discussion likely would have been far more productive and possibly identified mismatches in attitude or expectations.
A virtual support system.
In 2007, there weren’t many physician practices I knew of that had Facebook pages or blogs. What I had, which became a lifeline and a cinderblock tied to my leg, were online message boards teeming with other over-tired, paranoid new parents.
A physician-authored blog such as Survivor Pediatrics would have been invaluable. If you don’t host a blog or post extensive parenting resources on your website, steer parents to trusted resources, such as healthychildren.org, that do.
If you host a Facebook page, you can keep the positives of message-board sharing intact by encouraging parents to post their own tips, provided you have the ability to moderate for nonsense or potentially harmful information (and reach out to parents who may need to adjust their remedies).
For instance, I discovered by accident that running the vacuum cleaner, or even a faucet if I was away from home, would calm my colicky baby almost instantly. Every day I could have gotten that information sooner may have very well added another to the end of my life.
A hub for community resources.
A lot of what I really needed during that stressful period truthfully wasn’t something the doctor’s office could provide at all.
I needed other moms to talk to, face-to-face, who were not relatives (family support is great, but as a source of advice can create a whole other kind of stress); public places I could take my child where screaming meltdowns, oceans of “spit-up,” and diaper blowouts were A-okay; someone to clean my house; a nap.
If you don’t do so already, create a bulletin board in your office posting details for children’s programs at local libraries; mothers’ groups; child-care resources; and relevant community activities.
Consider dedicating one corner of the board to any of these items that are also free or discounted to your patients—since budget is big driver keeping new moms isolated in their homes.
Again, you’ll have to exercise some oversight to make sure your board doesn’t become too advertorial; but a little time curating this information for your patients could alleviate a lot of the time you and your staff spend hand-holding new parents.
Finally, remember to cut new parents some slack, or at least not sigh audibly when the question list they pull out of their purse resembles a never-ending scarf cascading out of a magician’s sleeve. In six months to eighteen years, we’ll all return to our normally calm, rational selves.