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Could Electronic Reminders Cut Infection Rates?

Researchers explore the use of text messages to ensure patients' pre-op bathing compliance.

Published: August 1, 2014

Pre-op bathing or showering may help to reduce the risk of surgical site infections, but it usually takes place in the uncontrolled environment of patients' homes. Researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee are using the technology in our pockets to keep patients on track with the practice.

For a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, they asked 80 volunteers to shower with 4% chlorhexidine gluconate liquid soap over the course of 2 or 3 days. Half of the volunteers were prompted to shower by text messages sent to their mobile phones.

The researchers found that those who'd received the texts had significantly higher skin-surface concentrations of CHG — about two-thirds more — than the unprompted volunteers. They also had less of the soap left over at the end of the study.

"This is a patient-centric process. We have to have a strategy in place to remind them to complete the process," says Charles E. Edmiston Jr., PhD, CIC, professor of surgery, director of the college's Surgical Microbiology Research Laboratory and the study's lead author. "Here is a solution that's entirely personalized."

Dr. Edmiston and his colleagues also recommend standardizing pre-op showering results by providing both oral and written instructions, supplying them with the prescribed soap, specifying the amount of soap to use, and explaining how long to leave it on before rinsing, among other steps.

David Bernard

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