How Text Messaging Can Improve Efficiency and Lower Costs for Ambulatory Surgery Centers

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Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) have had a unique impact on surgical care in the United States because they specialize in same-day surgical care, which includes preventive procedures, diagnostics, and other procedures (such as colonoscopies, cataract removal, or spinal injections) that don’t require long-term hospital admissions. Before ASCs, most surgeries, ranging from minor procedures to intensive operations, were performed in the hospital setting. With so many surgeries to conduct, hospitals often suffered from limited operating room availability, scheduling challenges, surgeon burnout, and slow turnover times for operating rooms.

ASCs have transformed the outpatient experience by providing a more convenient and accessible alternative. For the 5,464 Medicare-certified ASCs in the U.S., achieving peak efficiency is key. Because ASCs are focused on curating a more convenient experience for patients and providers without sacrificing quality, ASC leaders will find that text messaging can serve as an economical but potent resource, helping them do more with less – improve operational efficiency and the patient experience while at the same time lowering costs. Here are a few ways that ASCs can benefit from a comprehensive text program. 

Patient Preparation

Since ASCs are all about quick but efficient outpatient treatments, patient preparation is key—to put it simply, patients need to be ready to go for surgery once they enter an ASC for treatment. Unfortunately, not all patients properly prepare for surgeries as recommended by their providers. For example, one study looked at patient preparation for colon cancer screenings. As part of the preparation, patients were advised to follow a split-dose bowel regimen. Unfortunately, 15.4 percent of patients were not compliant, and 16 percent were reported as being “suboptimal.”

In order for ASC providers to conduct their same-day surgeries quickly and safely, patients need to be fully prepared. If patients show up unprepared, procedures may be canceled or rescheduled. This not only impacts the center’s financials, but it can also be highly inconvenient and frustrating for the patient. So, to help patients prepare, providers can send out text messages to patients that supplement and reinforce instructions regarding pre-surgery preparations. This can include reminders to provide required medical history, wayfinding information, and precisely timed preparation instructions, such as when to discontinue eating and drinking. All with the goal of ensuring that the patient arrives fully prepared for surgery. 

Patient Flow

Given the importance of patients showing up on time for their procedure, text messaging can also be a valuable communication mechanism for communicating arrival times. These arrival times can automatically be set based upon the type of procedure the patient will be undergoing. For example, if a center requires that a patient arrives an hour before their scheduled colonoscopy procedure, this information can automatically be communicated to the patient. In the day-to-day operations of an ASC, there are times when procedures fall behind schedule or, if there is a last minute cancellation, procedures can be advanced. Text messaging is a great way to quickly and efficiently adjust a patient’s arrival time. This capability is not only a driver of efficiency, but it also can enhance the overall patient experience.

Recovery and Post Discharge

Though patients are generally in and out of ASC in a single day, providers need to ensure that patients follow proper recovery procedures in order to avoid complications. While patients are provided with discharge instructions (usually on paper), supplementing and reinforcing these instructions with timely reminders regarding setting up follow up visits or filling prescriptions, for example, can be highly effective. In addition, they can be reminded about what number to call should they have any follow up questions regarding their care. Using text messaging for those patients who do not necessarily need (or prefer) a direct conversation can provide important leverage to ASC personnel and allow them to focus on those patients that require a conversation. 

Patient Satisfaction

Lastly, ASCs are not only about providing effective care—they’re also about providing an outstanding patient experience. Providers can use a text messaging platform to conduct patient satisfaction surveys. This approach drives timely and actionable feedback and generally has higher response rates than other survey alternatives. In fact, studies have shown that patients who complete patient surveys via mobile device are more likely to give accurate and honest responses as compared to those patients who fill out traditional patient surveys or participate in voice-based interviews. Why? With a mobile device, patients can answer and submit a survey whenever it’s convenient for them. This information can be used to not only address specific patient concerns, but it can also be utilized to identify opportunities to become more efficient and create systemic change.

ASCs are about convenience, delivering positive outcomes, and improving the overall patient experience. Texting is a cost efficient and effective resource that is proven to enhance patient engagement and adherence, which translates into boosting ASC efficiency. ASC’s looking to improve performance shouldn’t overlook the power of text messaging.

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