Surgery Patients

Text Matters: Engagement with Surgery Patients

November 14, 2017

Small actions can have large impacts. Maybe you’ve heard of the nudge theory (recent winner of the Nobel in Economics, Richard Thaler, brought this theory to prominence) which suggests that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions can heavily influence behavior. Positioning healthier food options at eye level on a shelf encourages healthier eating habits in a cafeteria. A series of green footprints leading to the trash bins at a railway station reduces littering. Text messaging has also played a key role in ‘nudging people’ and has been used by education and healthcare organizations to improve outcomes for the people they serve. Actually, the nudge theory has been especially relevant in healthcare, which brings us to today’s topic: texting as a way to engage with surgery patients while ensuring the process goes smoothly and comfortably for the patient—resulting in better outcomes for all involved.

Text Matters

Text messaging is a simple way to keep people informed and on-track. It has been proven that text messaging interventions have been successful in addressing everything from weight loss, medication adherence and primary care appointment attendance—just to name a few. In fact, it has been shown that patient reminders via text are preferred to other alternatives. This is not a surprise when you consider that 99% of mobile text messages are opened and 90% of them are read within three minutes of being received.

When it comes to surgery, the entire process can be quite stressful for the patient, family and other people involved. During the process, there is a lot the patient has to keep in mind—whether it’s ongoing appointments, pre-surgery consultations, eating habits, or medications they need to take, or stop taking, prior to the surgery itself. The process, combined with the emotional and mental stress can be exhausting. In addition, it is quite common for patient and family to only retain 20 – 60% of instructions at all, not to mention accurately, so it is important to help keep patients informed and on track. Text is a simple and easy way to do so.

Healthcare organizations can use texting to send patients reminders about appointments, instructions on how to prepare, and reminders for follow ups. If the patient has a designated family member that’s supporting them, the healthcare organization can send texts to that person, as well. This reduces the likelihood that the patient will forget something important—like stopping blood thinners a week prior and no food or drink the night before surgery.

The issue however is always time and overhead. Even with a secure messaging system in place, whether placing a phone call or sending a text, this process takes time.  However, solutions for Complex Care and Patient Engagement, based on secure messaging, provide the ability to automate patient engagement in this manner. Administrators can pre-schedule a series of secure, compliant and ephemeral texts that can be sent to the patient, based on the procedure and customized from there. This makes it quick, easy and safe to send private and sensitive information to your patients in a systematic manner. This way, patients can be kept on-track through simple nudges, and the entire experience can be less stressful, for both the patient and the healthcare staff.

The Numbers Matter

Care team members spend at least 1.5 to 2 hours a day on the phone calling patients to remind them of appointments. This is to ensure that they arrive on time and show up. Despite phone calls, scheduling and rescheduling availability and even overbooking surgical schedules, the no-show rate for surgery still hovers between 25% and 30% at some medical centers. And studies have shown that more than 30% of the no shows fail to show up because of transportation problems, confusion over the date of the procedure and simply due to forgetting about the appointment…”

When surgeries are cancelled on short notice, the loss for a hospital or outpatient facility are significant. It is difficult to swap in other procedures that would bring in the lost revenue – hence the efforts to overbook, make phone calls and do anything it takes to avoid last minute cancellations. Some facilities experience losses in the millions each year due to this scenario.

Automated patient outreach and reminders via secure text allow providers to engage with patients on a consistent manner to avoid many of these occurrences. With pre-scheduled, repetitive digital contact that staff can audit to see receipt and read notifications, the facility is better prepared for patient readiness. Staff hours, previously focused on making phone calls, can now be refocused on patient care and billable activities.

To find out more about how Vaporstream can assist in solving your Complex Care and Engagement challenges to recapture lost revenue, contact us – or schedule a demo to see the Vaporstream Platform in action.

Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle

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