Reducing hospital readmission rates is a major priority for U.S. healthcare organizations.
According to MedPage Today, one in seven Medicare patients can expect to be readmitted into a hospital within a month of having been released from surgery. In order to reduce readmission rates and improve surgical recovery, healthcare providers should concentrate on boosting communication efforts with recovering patients.
In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out that a “hospital would, on average, reduce its readmission rate by 5% if it were to prioritize communication with the patients in addition to complying with evidence-based standards of care. ”By focusing on overall communication, providing suggestions regarding exercises, and working on pushing general medication adherence, providers can improve not only general patient engagement but also the overall surgical recovery experience as well. Texting is by far one of the most effective means of provider-to-patient communication, especially since 73 percent of Americans regularly text. Here are a few key points concerning how providers can use text messaging to assist with surgical recovery.
Pain and Pain Management
Pain, and the management of pain, is a challenge for most healthcare providers. According to a study of 38,451 patient stays, 38.4 percent of those stays were directly associated with significant pain. Regarding patient stays tied to emergency surgery, 54 percent of emergency admissions experienced significant pain levels. Interestingly, only 30 percent of patients that reported significant clinical pain had their pain validated by a significant pain score. In other words, providers should work on refining their methods for gathering patient-reported health status, and a secure, HIPAA compliant text-messaging platform can be used for this purpose. Patients can easily supply data to providers regarding their pain through a simple, text-first interaction. Taking the example further, if reported pain levels are outside of a pre-defined range, the provider can automatically be alerted and follow up as necessary. This approach is patient-centric, and it can help equip providers with the information they need to address pain-related concerns in a timely manner.
Light exercise before and after surgery can be extremely beneficial, helping to improve a patient’s chance for a successful recovery. For example, according to alterg.com, surgical recovery exercise can help to increase blood flow and prevent blood clots, which is especially useful with patients recovering from vascular surgery. Exercise can help to improve hip motion and restore muscle strength following hip surgery, and it can boost overall strength and flexibility following ankle surgery. Healthcare providers can use texting to not only provide reminders for patients to conduct their usual surgical recovery exercises, but providers can also offer instructions concerning particular exercises – in text, picture or video form – via a secure link sent through a text message. This text first approach provides all of the information the patient needs in one place and at the moment it is most relevant.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of patients neglect to take their medication on a consistent basis. In fact, roughly half of all patients don’t take their medication as prescribed by their doctors, according to adhereforhealth.org. One in five prescriptions go unfilled, and, incredibly, 125,000 Americans each year die from subpar medication adherence. However, with a texting platform, healthcare providers can send text alerts to patients, reminding them to not only fill their prescription but also to take their medication on a regular basis. Similar to the exercise example, a secure link sent via a text message can provide specific dosing instructions and other information related to the prescribed medication.
Patient Satisfaction and Monitoring Surgical Recovery
Patient satisfaction surveys can play an integral role in helping monitor a patient’s experience during surgical recovery, but it has been a challenge for healthcare organizations to have their patients take the time to fill our paper surveys. Response rates to traditional paper surveys are generally very low as evidenced by a recent study that confirmed only 1.7 percent of patient satisfaction surveys are ever filled out. Beyond that, it can sometime be weeks or months before any feedback is received making it difficult for healthcare organizations to draw any meaningful conclusions. The timeliness of feedback coupled with generally low response rates make it very challenging to identify and address systemic issues that drive dissatisfaction. In order to boost overall response rates, providers should consider text-based surveys as an alternative; unlike traditional paper surveys, these text surveys can be filled out quickly and submitted at the patient’s convenience. With this type of messaging service, providers can check in with patients about their surgical recovery experiences or in-patient stays, and patients can offer constructive criticisms or suggestions to improve surgical recovery. Additionally, providers can also message tips to patients regarding the importance of staying active, exercising, and eating healthy.
Ensuring that patients fully understand the steps they need to take after surgery and, most importantly, that they complete these steps in a timely manner is critical to a positive outcome. Deploying a text-first messaging platform can play an important role in supporting patients through this process. Providers can engage patients rapidly and effectively, providing tailored reminders and information and obtain timely health status. In short, providers should take a close look at texting as a way to support communicating with and engaging patients throughout the recovery process.
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