ACOG Joins National Obesity Care Week 2016: Take 5 to Change the Way We Care

Today, more than a third of the adult population, 36.5 percent, is affected by obesity. The number of adults who are affected by severe obesity continues to rise. It’s time for a change in obesity care. With senocw-supporter-web-visual-copyvere obesity on the rise, our nation, led by the health care community, must attack this disease from multiple angles and unite to overhaul the treatment of obesity. ACOG recognizes the important role that obstetrician-gynecologists play. Ob-gyns often meet their patients at a young age, when obesity is less likely to be an issue. Therefore, we are in an ideal position to help educate women and provide counsel on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and fighting obesity.

The 2nd Annual National Obesity Care Week (NOCW), October 30 through November 5, seeks to ignite a national movement to ensure anyone affected by obesity receives respectful and comprehensive care. ACOG is proud to join the Campaign, which was founded by The Obesity Society, the Obesity Action Coalition, Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Continue reading

Ob-Gyns Can Empower Women to Choose Breastfeeding

Only 22 percent of mothers in the United States are exclusively breastfeeding their babies at six months. Although most U.S. women initiate breastfeeding, more than half wean earlier than they desire and fall short of their personal goals. These are startling statistics given all the research and evidence we have that shows how beneficial it can be for both women and babies. That says to me that we, as providers, can do more to empower women with the knowledge to make this critical decision. As National Breastfeeding Month comes to a close, it seems like an appropriate time to remind us how important our guidance really is and the potential impact it could make on health outcomes.

There are many barriers to successful breastfeeding but I believe the key to overcoming them starts with education—the one factor that physicians have the most control over. Misinformation can often be the culprit when it comes to a mother making the decision not to breastfeed. Discussions about breastfeeding should be integrated into maternity care. Providers should obtain a thorough history and find out early what expectant mothers know or have heard about breastfeeding. Often times, it’s as simple as mitigating fears regarding pain associated with breastfeeding and letting mothers know that it might not come naturally at first and that, with the right support, techniques are learned and will improve over time. Providers should respect and support a woman’s informed decision whether to initiate or continue breastfeeding, as each woman is uniquely qualified to decide which feeding option is best for herself and her infant.  However, pregnant mothers take their doctors’ advice seriously, so we shouldn’t underestimate our influence. By saying nothing, we imply that it doesn’t matter—and it does.

Continue reading

Reinventing the Wheel. Technology Should Help Us Engage Our Patients…AND Ourselves

You asked and we listened. To better serve our Members, today marks the launch of ACOG’s Estimated Due Date Calculator (EDD Calculator). It’s an easy-to-use, EDDCalcstraightforward, free app that is strictly based on joint recommendations from ACOG, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) for determining pregnancy due dates.

Notably, the EDD Calculator is the only app of its kind that reconciles the discrepancy in due dates between the first ultrasound and the date of the last menstrual period. It also has an assisted reproductive technology (ART) component to help health care providers with patients who undergo embryo transfer.

Continue reading

Enjoying Summer While Fighting Obesity

Ah, summertime is here again and you know what that means. Warmer weather and longer days: the perfect time to remind our patients (and ourselves) to enjoy the outdoors and get active in the fresh air. Walking, riding bikes, and swimming are all ways to work out while making the most out of the season.

This is not about getting back into a swim suit, but about fighting obesity. Just last month in my inaugural address, I challenged ACOG members to join me in the fight against obesity. Why? Because, in our country alone obesity claims 300,000 lives a year. The health hazards of being obese are quite well known: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Obese women are also at a higher risk for numerous types of cancer, including esophageal, pancreatic, colorectal, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, ovarian and renal.

Approximately 36% of adult women in the United States are affected by obesity, and that number has been on the rise. Therefore, physicians have been faced with the challenges inherent in caring for these patients. As ob-gyns, we are, for many patients, the only physician a woman sees on a regular basis. Moreover, we have highly trusted relationships with our patients due to the sensitive nature of our specialty. Ob-gyns are in an ideal position to help educate women and provide counsel on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and fighting obesity.

Continue reading

Protecting the Patient-Physician Relationship: Why Ob-Gyns Need to Talk With Patients About Gun Safety

In order to deliver the best health care, ob-gyns must develop strong relationships with our patients. We need to discuss sensitive issues in the exam room, including sexual health, family planning, mental health, and domestic violence concerns. Keeping the line of communication unhindered allows physicians to provide the needed information to keep patients healthy.

That’s why a Florida law called the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, or the “physician gag law,” is so troubling. Continue reading

Guest Blog: Connecting with Social Media—The Doctor Will Tweet You Now

Meadow M. Good, DO

Meadow M. Good, DO

As an ob-gyn and active user of social media, I enjoy being able to connect online with friends, family, and colleagues. Turns out, I’m in good company: Nearly all physicians in the US are now on social media, and more and more of us are using social for professional purposes.

Social media opens up an exciting new world for physicians and health professionals: Sharing important health messages with the community, promoting your practice and services, or communicating with colleagues via professional social networks, to name a few.  And the medium is great for relaying information quickly and easily: With the touch of your finger, you can relay a message or post an image about anything to a few people or the entire world, and we can truly make a difference with social media.

With the great possibilities and benefits of social media also comes caution for those of us in the medical community. Instantaneous access to information is great, except when it’s information that may be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or may contain inappropriate or unprofessional expressions or images. It can result in health professionals being seen as insensitive and unprofessional, and even more seriously, violate privacy law and HIPAA.

OK, but you’re thinking—I would never post anything inappropriate, and this doesn’t happen very often anyway, does it? Unfortunately, there are more and more online incidents like the above examples involving health professionals. A recent survey of state medical boards revealed some surprises about professional violations: About 92% reported at least one online violation that led to major actions such as license revocation, and the problems occurred across every age and demographic group.

The offending examples of what caused the problems may also surprise you. One ob-gyn was scrutinized for venting her frustrations online about patients’ tardiness.  A patient is suing an anesthesiologist who put stickers on her face, and the nurse shared it on social media. Posts such as these have caused strained relationships, public complaints, and led to disciplinary action from employers, medical boards, and judges.

As health professionals, we need to harness the power of social media while avoiding the issues and risks. To help make this possible, ACOG has developed a Social Media Guide, including some do’s and don’ts of posting. There’s also a short video that I produced with my colleagues from the ACOG Junior Fellow Congress Advisory Council, which shows the type of behavior to avoid—including how humor online may be misconstrued and taken out of context.

Here are five of my essential tips to ensure social media professionalism for health professionals:

  1. Pause before you post.
  2. When in doubt, leave it out.
  3. Avoid posting pictures from your personal life that could be misunderstood when viewed in a professional context. This might include pictures involving alcohol (including alcoholic glasses, cups, or bottles); tobacco/smoking, being intoxicated or using other substances; or pictures of you or others in suggestive or provocative attire such as bathing suits.
  4. Avoid posting about specific situations related to your work or a patient, even if you’re not identifying anyone in particular.
  5. Remember that it’s easy for your personal life and professional life to blend together online, so avoid personal expressions of anger, grief or venting online.

What are your favorite tips on social media for health professionals? I believe that it’s our responsibility to help each other learn how to use social media to interact with our colleagues and patients. As the medical and technology fields continue to change rapidly, it’s important for health professionals to share critical medical knowledge that the public depends on to make sound medical decisions. We have an opportunity to provide medical facts and advice, and the public wants to hear from us.

Meadow M. Good, DO, is chair of ACOG’s Junior Fellow Congress Advisory Council. You can follow her on Twitter @MeadowGood.

A Quick Guide to Social Media Professionalism

No one doubts that this is the era of digital communications and social media, and it’s coming along with numerous changes in our hospital and clinic practices. There can be a pretty steep learning curve when new technologies are introduced. Just as you’re trying to learn one platform’s purpose, audience, or lingo, a new or different application is demanding your attention. Add to that the constant bombardment by advertisements for webinars and online courses that promise to help us understand the complex world of social media, including the sometimes slippery slope that we walk as we communicate with our patients over online networks and promote our expertise and practices in the high tech world. It’s hard to tell where to start.

ACOG’s Junior Fellow Congress Advisory Council (JFCAC) recently developed a DVD that I think every practice needs to purchase. It’s a short, four minute video, yet it gives a very real message about the challenges we face as we expand into social media. The JFCAC goal was very simple: to increase awareness of unprofessional online behaviors and inappropriate use of technology, and to encourage physicians to think before they post. Mission accomplished! The video is engaging and does a great job of highlighting the consequences of posting inappropriate information or unprofessional pictures while using social media and technology applications. It points out that seemingly innocuous jokes and personal expression could lead to a tarnished reputation, ethical and legal violations, and disciplinary actions.

After watching the video, I had a more clear understanding of how to use social media thoughtfully and responsibly. Some of these points may seem obvious, but it is definitely worthwhile to review, especially as so many of us transition from using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms as a professional tool instead of for casual purposes.

I purchased the DVD to share with my Human Resources department for a new physician orientation. I believe every hospital and certainly every residency program can use it. Check it out here. For more tips on social media for ob-gyns, see ACOG’s Social Media Guide.

Guest Blog: Cultural Sensitivity Is a Must in Patient Communication

Sarah Ward Prager, MD

Sarah Ward Prager, MD

Have you ever gone to the doctor and felt like he or she just wasn’t understanding you? You’re not alone. Many women have their own beliefs about health, medicines, and other treatments. Sometimes those beliefs don’t match up with what doctors recommend, even though the doctor’s suggestions are based on research proving they work. When patients bring their own cultural beliefs, sensitivities, or fears about health and health care to their appointment, they may need more explanation than just the evidence.

In some cases, doctors just need to listen better and avoid making assumptions about patients. For example, ob-gyns may believe all young women are at risk for an unintended pregnancy, but that’s not the case for women in committed same-sex relationships. Other times, doctors may need to be more clear in explaining the reasons for certain tests or medications, using words and examples that fit into the patient’s own cultural framework.

ACOG understands that approaching patient encounters with cultural awareness and sensitivity creates a more satisfying and caring relationship. To help ob-gyns become more aware of health-care related issues and beliefs in different cultures, ACOG has developed resources that address the traditions and cultural norms common among women of certain backgrounds. ACOG’s cultural sensitivity committee opinion offers typical doctor’s office scenarios with examples of sensitive vs. non-sensitive approaches to a patient’s culture and background. Additionally, ACOG will soon release a video training series that includes clinical vignettes demonstrating a wrong way and a right way to communicate with a patient, taking her heritage and beliefs into account.

Your ob-gyn wants to understand you and communicate with you effectively, and using these ACOG’s cultural sensitivity resources can help make that happen. Also, remember to tell your doctor about the cultural beliefs that are important to you. In the end, sharing what you value is one of the most helpful tools for facilitating better two-way communication.

Sarah Ward Prager, MD, is an ob-gyn at the University of Washington and is a member of ACOG’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women.

**Subscribe to the ACOG President’s Blog to receive an email alert every time a new blog is posted.