Patients are very vulnerable after surgery. If they don’t follow post-surgical instructions, they may be readmitted (never a good thing for hospitals these days), and far worse, may suffer real harm.
Unfortunately, many patients don’t retain or follow doctors’ instructions on how to best recover from surgery, particularly if these instructions aren’t documented well. For example, a 2015 study appearing in Anesthesiology concluded that only 60% of 519 surgery patients who got verbal post-operative instructions or annotated EMR records complied with medication instructions.
In an effort to improve stats like these, Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center has introduced an app designed to support patients in their post-surgical recovery process. The app, SeamlessMD, prompts patients to ask for reminders about their surgeon’s instructions, according to a HIMSS Future Care article.
Anthony Perry, MD, vice president for ambulatory care and population health at Rush, told the publication that his facility had already implemented protocols for enhanced recovery after surgery before the app was created. But the app has potential to move patients’ post-surgical recovery to the next level, Perry said. “It’s not only a neat technology, but a neat technology that’s truly aligned with our own goals,” he noted.
Dr. Perry believes that presenting prompts and reminders via a personal mobile device offers benefits traditional care instructions can’t, particularly when the app is placed on a patient’s phone. “There’s a bridge that a smartphone gives us into a person’s everyday life that we don’t have when they come visit us in the office,” he said.
Rush’s initiative comes as hospitals around the world consider the benefits of rolling out patient-oriented apps. For example, four National Health Services hospitals serving the United Kingdom are testing apps that monitor patient health at home.
The hospitals are testing two apps, one focused on managing gestational diabetes treatment and the other addressing COPD monitoring and care. (As one might expect, the diabetes app collects blood glucose readings and the COPD app oxygen saturation levels.) The pilot, which is still in its initial stages, has already seen some success. For example, the number of office visits by patients with gestational diabetes has fallen 25% since the app was released to such patients.
This may be the dawn of a new age for hospital use of mHealth apps, which has been at best at a trial-and-error stage for several years. While most hospitals and health systems have toyed with apps to some degree, in the past there was neither a clinical nor technical approach for them to adopt. So many initial app projects went nowhere.
But with evidence piling up that at least some approaches work – such as remote patient monitoring for chronic disease management, as described above – hospitals are beginning to see apps as a practical tool for improving outcomes. Meanwhile, as they’ve adopted mobile-friendly infrastructures, hospitals have become more capable of supporting hospital-developed apps effectively.
Of course, there’s probably a number of functions apps can perform which nobody’s pursued just yet. But with some early successes in place, my guess is that hospitals will try lots of new app projects going forward.