Access Now: AORN COVID-19 Clinical Support

Archive June 2020 XXI, No. 6

3 Keys to Keeping Patients Happy

Communication apps, PONV prevention and financing plans are real satisfiers.

Adam Taylor


Surgery Center of Fairbanks
CURBSIDE PICK-UP With COVID-19 visitor restrictions in place, surgical team members at the Surgery Center of Fairbanks use communication apps to update patients' family members during surgery and inform them when their loved ones are ready for discharge.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, operating a surgical facility in one of Alaska’s largest cities brought unique challenges. Patients from rural villages in the state’s rugged interior often had to fly to the Surgery Center of Fairbanks for a pre-operative appointment a week before their procedures. Many flew home and returned in time for their surgeries.

The center’s staff launched a patient communication app early in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was a timely decision that helped them manage state health mandates that changed by the week, surgeons stuck in other states due to travel restrictions and the postponement of cases, which wreaked havoc on the center’s schedule.

“I really don’t know what we would have done without the new software to get all of the alerts out to patients,” says Keli Hite McGee, MA, the facility’s administrator. “We would have been on the phone with patients and staff all day and night just to update them, which would have been tremendously more difficult than the texts we were able to push out.”

1. Improved communication

Gulf Coast Outpatient Surgery Center
PAYMENT OPTION Third-party financing companies provide patients with the loan or credit they need to undergo an otherwise unaffordable procedure.

When the virus first hit, the facility’s staff used the app to update patients scheduled for emergent procedures who were pre-screened for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their surgeries. Now that the center is expanding its phased reopening, text messages are sent to patients’ loved ones who must wait in their vehicles instead of the waiting room. Escorts receive an alert when patients enter the OR, a second when they arrive in the PACU and a third when it’s time to drive to the facility’s front door to pick them up.

The innovative patient engagement software provided plenty of benefits even before the COVID-19 crisis, according to Rachel Piszczek, BSN, RN, CNOR, the center’s director of nursing. Two full-time nurses pre-registered patients, a process that included gathering and reviewing health histories and confirming patients were cleared to undergo surgery during a pre-op phone call.

Now, patients complete their medical histories through an online portal well in advance of their procedures instead of relaying the information a couple days before they show up for surgery. Thanks to the patient portal, only one nurse needs to be on pre-registration duty, freeing the other for more direct clinical work. Plus, pre-op assessments are more thorough. The nurse who pre-registers patients reads through the information they submit and has enough time to identify red flags and address issues that in the past could have caused cases to be canceled.

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