Archive January 2017 XVIII, No. 1

What's New in Patient Communication Apps

Engage with patients in a more intimate way — on their cherished mobile devices.

Bill Donahue, Senior Editor

mobile health apps SCREEN TEST Mobile health apps can improve communication between staff and patients while simplifying a number of time-consuming tasks.

In 2017, people expect immediate access to information wherever they go, including the OR — especially the OR, for that matter. And now they can have it. Mobile health apps have helped surgical facilities open the lines of communication in a variety of ways. In addition to providing regular updates to settle the nerves of waiting family members, these apps can simplify a number of time-consuming tasks — everything from procuring pre-admission assessments, to sharing essential pre- and post-op instructions, to sending friendly reminders about coming-due payments (see "Text Patients Before, During and After Surgery" on page 34).

Surgical facilities that invest in these technologies stand to harvest some tangible fruits in terms of patient satisfaction, efficiency and compliance. Apps designed to handle pre-admission assessments, for example, can help you reallocate labor hours so your nurses can focus on clinical care rather than spend hours on the phone. Such benefits do come with a price tag, however. One industry expert estimates the subscription cost at $500 to $1,000 per month, depending on the app. Here are 6 benefits of connecting to your patients using apps.

1Completing pre-admission assessments. When scheduling new patients for surgery, rather than having a preadmission nurse chase them down for their health history and insurance information, apps can do the job for you. Surgical facilities can set up an app's screening process to provide different "alerts" if a patient has a particular concern — fear of anesthesia, for example — or health condition that might affect how care is delivered. Also, some apps offer value-added tools such as the ability to track and store consent forms, labs and other important documents. Some even offer value-added callback services to further free up staff members for more vital tasks.

2Sharing pre-op instructions. How many surgeries are delayed because patients forgot their NPO instructions? You can now use apps to send text messages the night before, reminding patients to refrain from eating or drinking after midnight. Avoid other complications by reminding patients to stop taking blood thinners or other medications in advance of a surgical procedure. What's more, some apps can provide helpful information that has nothing to do with the actual surgery, such as driving directions to the surgical facility and route-specific traffic conditions — even parking options — for smoother visits from start to finish.

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