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Archive Hot Technology 2019

Promote Perfect Attendance

Text message reminders and online patient registration portals can put an end to canceled cases.

Mike Morsch

Mike Morsch, Associate Editor


MOBILE DATA Patients who receive updates and information about scheduled procedures on their cell phones are more likely to show up on the day of surgery.

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching the (very expensive) minutes tick by in empty ORs when cases have to be called off at the eleventh hour. Officials at Cincinnati (Ohio) Children’s Hospital Medical Center know the feeling. In 2011, they were losing about 5.5 hours of revenue-producing OR time a day due to last-minute cancellations. The 3 main culprits: patients got sick; patients simply wouldn’t show or would go to the wrong campus; or patients weren’t going NPO before surgery.

Patients and their families typically received phone calls from a nurse 2 days before scheduled procedures, during which the nurse would review pre-op care instructions, remind patients of their arrival time and provide directions to the hospital. It was obvious that the information wasn’t getting through to some patients, so Cincinnati Children’s decided to invest in an automated text message system that integrated with the hospital’s electronic medical records.

Families can opt to receive the texts when they visit surgeons in the clinic. Patients receive the texts the evening before surgery. The messages include NPO reminders, the arrival time on the day of surgery, the estimated time of surgery and directions to the campus location where the surgery will be performed.

Officials at Cincinnati Children’s estimate that the text reminders have reduced lost OR time by 37%, which has let the hospital recapture an estimated $20,000 a week — about $1 million a year — in lost revenue.

“The advantage of using automated texts is primarily that they are persistent reminders,” says Jayant “Nick” Pratap, MA, MB BChir, MRCPCH, FRCA, an associate professor of anesthesia and pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s. “The information remains available on patients’ cell phones, unlike instructions from a phone call, which persist only if patients write them down.”

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