Surprise. It’s a…

Are you having a boy or girl? This is one of the standard questions people ask a pregnant lady. Everyone asks. It has become a kind of conversation starter. It’s not that the stranger in the grocery store really cares, but it just seems like natural thing to say. It’s part of the standard questions we ask pregnant women. How far along are you? Is there just one? When are you due? People get excited about pregnancy and want to share the experience.

So what if you choose not to find out the gender of your baby?

This comes up occasionally. Couples have various reasons but usually it’s centered around wanting to be surprised. They want to have that magical TV moment of shock, excitement and joy. I have seen deliveries almost daily for the past eleven years. I will say couples are always surprised. It’s hard to say whether finding out the gender has anything to do with it. Seeing a delivery is magical in and of itself. Everyone seems surprised, seeing a human being expelled from your body is a miracle to watch. I don’t see much difference if you know the gender or not.

On the other hand, if you choose to find out what you are having you get two surprises. The initial is in the second trimester when the sonographer shows you the “boy parts” or the “girl parts.” Then you get a second surprise at delivery making two surprises and two moments to celebrate.

Interestingly, I notice a difference in the language moms use during the pregnancy. Before we know the gender they call the baby “it” or the generic “the baby.” Moms who know the gender say “he” and “she” and often start referring to the baby by name—”Jaden is moving a lot today.” Does this mean these moms are bonding to their baby earlier? Who knows?

To me it seems like people would want to know just to avoid the annoyance of having to explain to strangers at the mall why you are not finding out. Also, who wants all yellow clothes at the baby shower? My mother shared a story from the days before knowing the sex of the baby was an option. While pregnant with me she painted one room green. When pregnant with my sister she painted it yellow.

When I have a patient who does not know I instruct our sonographer to write only “normal genitalia” and not gender. My policy is if the patient does not know then I don’t either. I learned that the hard way. A few years ago, after “keeping the secret” the entire pregnancy I referred to the baby casually as “she” during labor. Oops. The wise mom immediately caught the slip. I tried to cover it up but she was not buying it.

So should you find out ahead of time? I’ll tell you 9 months from now.

Getting Social with Your Doctor 24/7

At seven months pregnant, Kristen Ballard is one of the nearly 19,000 patients at the MacArthur OB/GYN clinic in Irving.

“When I was pregnant with my daughter, they said I needed to see a specialist and they recommended him [Dr. Jeff Livingston] and I”ve been with him ever since,” said Ballard.

But, despite the size of the practice, Ballard said she doesn’t feel like just a number.

“I can ask any questions, at any time. I’ve actually emailed at 1 in the morning,” laughed Ballard. Read more »

How Secure Messaging Helps this Doctor

I commented on a blog post recently that cited a recent study called “Secure web messaging between patients and doctors: Not well received.” I was pleased to see that other professionals who left comments had the same reaction I did to the study: it is  simply not accurate. I have 4,900 patients and five other physicians in our practice who can attest that secure messaging, when used the right way, is an invaluable tool that has improved efficiency, and empowered our patients with access to their doctors and their health information.

The study was published by Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The authors of the article studied how patients in an outpatient, academic pediatric respiratory clinic in New Haven were using the clinic’s Secure Messaging to communicate with providers. They found that in 8 months, only 5 messages were initiated by patients. Makes it sound like patients do not find value in secure messaging, right? That is a broad statement when looking at only 127 patients at an academic clinic, and I strongly believe it is not representative at all of the overall health industry’s experience.

No practice or health system of any size can expect patients to adopt a technology like secure messaging if they do not  have a platform from which patients can easily access and use it. Through our Kryptiq Patient Portal, powered by their secure messaging, our patients schedule appointments, email their physicians with questions (and receive responses), refill prescriptions and access their lab results.

[blockquote3]Empower your patients by giving them access to their charts.[/blockquote3]

I gather from the article that the clinic was not using a patient portal to host the secure messaging solution. I also think it is safe to assume they were not educating their patients – or their parents — about all the benefits of using secure messaging to communicate with their practice.

The other key factor in getting patients to use secure messaging: tell them it’s there! We are always talking to new and existing patients about how easy the patient portal makes their care experience out of our offices. We use technology to expand the doctor patient relationship beyond the office. When most patients use it, they are  hooked. We average over fifty new users per week. The result is fewer phone calls to our office staff about issues that can be easily answered through secure messaging. That frees our staff to field calls from new patients and streamline urgent calls. It’s a win-win.

Kryptic provides the platform, but the success is dependent on physicians and staff. Train medical assistants to use it. This means breaking their habit of using the telephone. Show them how it will save time and improve documentation. Train the front office to send messages to patients. If a practice is not successful using it, then he or she is not engaging the people around them. Empower your patients by giving them access to their charts.

My advice to any practice or organization considering secure messaging is to do it right. Work with a company like Kryptiq, that offers software that is integrated with your existing EHR and workflow; use the software they offer to make secure messaging work for your patients, including a patient portal to create an easy-to-use base for communication; and let your patients know how much they’ll get out of using it. Trust me, you won’t know how you ever functioned without it and your patients will appreciate it.

Article from, social media’s leading physician voice.