For the better part of a year, health organizations’ focus, and rightly so, has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping patients safe, and more recently, distributing the vaccine. But it’s also important to recognize that due to fear of the coronavirus, many patients have avoided getting the care they need. Roughly 87 percent of healthcare leaders cited safety as the reason patients have deferred care during the pandemic.
In response, providers are now redoubling efforts to invite patients back for much-needed routine and maintenance visits while continuing to care for COVID-19 patients and rolling out the vaccine. This includes critical preventive care that can help detect serious health conditions and diseases early on for better patient outcomes.
To help providers welcome back patients and educate them about returning for important preventive care, we’re kicking off a series of health awareness blog posts that highlight common diseases and conditions that afflict millions of Americans. The articles can serve as a resource for providers to automate recall reminders to patients within specific demographics to encourage them to resume scheduling annual exams and screenings. They’re also an opportunity for providers to automate targeted patient education regarding pertinent health awareness issues.
National Glaucoma Awareness Month
When’s the last time you had a comprehensive dilated eye exam? According to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the U.S.
Though anyone can get glaucoma, those at higher risk of the disease include:
- African Americans over age 40
- Anyone over age 60, especially Hispanics/Latinos
- People with a family history of the disease
Annual health maintenance checkups and screenings with health providers are critical to early detection and prevention of injurious diseases like glaucoma.
Each January, the National Eye Institute sponsors National Glaucoma Awareness Month. It provides helpful glaucoma resources for health educators, including articles, fact sheets, infographics, videos, and webinars to help educate patients about glaucoma. According to the federal health department, 13.2 per 1,000 adults aged 45 years and over had visual impairment due to glaucoma in 2017.
Glaucoma at a glance:
- Has no symptoms at first, so people with glaucoma may not know they have it.
- Diagnosed with a dilated eye exam.
- Can’t be prevented or cured—but it can be treated with medicines, laser treatment, or surgery.
Other glaucoma resources available during this month’s observance include a feature on glaucoma and vision loss from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a Healthy People 2030 objective to reduce vision loss from glaucoma.
Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
More than 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year—but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening. As such, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition recognizes January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The intent is to educate the public about cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV), and the importance of getting screened.
Women can lower their risk for cervical cancer by getting screened regularly beginning at age 21, according to the CDC. Two tests that help prevent cervical cancer or find it early include the Pap test and the HPV test.
Similar Cervical Cancer Awareness Month resources include a CDC feature that has critical cervical cancer information and related resources about cervical cancer screenings and the HPV vaccine at MyHealthfinder.
Patient Education and Targeted Reminders
Healthcare organizations can do their part to aid early detection and prevention of glaucoma and cervical cancer in several ways. Since annual eye exams and cervical cancer screenings are critical to diagnosing and treating the diseases, providers can target specific patient demographics for automated recall text reminders about scheduling preventive screenings. That way patients don’t forget to make appointments. Providers can also set up automated texts based on patient demographics to share appropriate patient education about glaucoma and cervical cancer.
Effective patient communication between healthcare organizations and patients can have a far-reaching impact in helping patients to detect and diagnose harmful diseases before they become significant health threats.
Successful patient interaction begins with reaching out to patients using the communication tools they prefer to use. Check out the guide Text: It’s What’s Next to learn why text messaging has become the leading way for providers to connect with patients.