How Secure Messaging Improves Patient Satisfaction in an Ambulatory Surgery Center

September 24, 2021

Colin Banas, M.D., M.H.A.

How Secure Messaging Improves Patient Satisfaction in an Ambulatory Surgery Center

Patients and their families often feel anxious and helpless when they arrive at an ambulatory surgery center for a scheduled procedure. Those feelings are understandable given all the unknowns, an unfamiliar environment, and the time spent waiting at multiple stages in the process. Unfortunately, that anxiety can contribute to overall patient dissatisfaction and less than optimal outcomes.

Recently, Dr. David Koronkiewicz of Goshen Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine hosted a webinar on how the ambulatory surgery center improved communication to limit delays, deliver the best patient experience, and ensure operational efficiency and a smooth process for surgical teams.

Here’s what he shared and how it can help other practices:

Information Reduces Frustration

Patients and their caregivers experience frustration and dissatisfaction when they are not kept informed of delays and progress on the day of a surgical procedure. At Goshen Physicians Orthopedics, surgeons do a lot of total joint replacements, and many times patients are taken to a holding area well before the surgery start time so the anesthesia team can get the patient ready for surgery. While the surgery will take only about an hour and a half, it could be two or three hours before the entire process is complete. If the family is not informed about a delay, they are likely sitting in the waiting room worrying and when the surgeon comes out after surgery they say, “What took so long?”

To alleviate that anxiety and improve satisfaction for everyone involved, the physicians at Goshen Physicians Orthopedics adopted DrFirst’s Backline® care collaboration platform, which enables instant sharing of information while keeping protected health information (PHI) secure. The seamless experience works without requiring patients or their families to download an app or complete a cumbersome registration process. Now, the physician can send a secure text message to family members telling them when surgery is about to begin. When surgery is finished, he or she can send a quick message saying, “I will be out in a few minutes to talk to you.”

These messages save time because people often leave the waiting area to grab a snack or walk around, and when the surgeon comes out of the operating room, nobody is there. The resulting delay can negatively impact surgical turnover and volume, which is crucial to efficient and profitable operations. Now that the patient’s family can receive a text in advance, they have a few minutes to come back to the waiting area to talk to the physician who performed the surgery.

Once the patient is discharged, physicians can continue to stay in touch with the patient and designated family member to answer questions during the immediate postoperative period. The ability to attach photos to messages can help with early recognition of complications and result in fewer emergency room or office visits. Having the ability to communicate easily in real time via secure messaging with the surgeon who was personally involved in the patient’s care can provide peace of mind and prevent a minor situation from becoming more serious.

Positive Results for Physicians and Patients

Goshen Physicians Orthopedics found that using Backline for secure messaging between physicians and patients yielded positive results for both groups:

  • 83% of patients and their caregivers reported being very or extremely satisfied with the ability to communicate directly with the surgeon
  • 83% of patients and their caregivers said they were more relaxed knowing they had secure messaging available to them
  • 90% of surveyed patients would recommend that family and friends use secure messaging the next time they require surgery

It also found that sending a message to caregivers letting them know that surgery was beginning and ending improved the Press Ganey metric of being kept informed of delays from 60.6% to 88.8%. (Watch the on-demand webinar for details.)

Ambulatory surgery centers can use secure messaging in many other ways to coordinate care. A scheduler can update the surgical team when people are running early or behind. Surgeons can communicate with their scrub techs and nurses, as well as families and caregivers both pre-op and post-op. Nurses can send a message to patients the night before their surgery to remind them not to eat or drink and to take a shower using an antibiotic soap. These messages can help reduce the canceled or delayed surgeries that result from patients not following preoperative instructions.

By connecting everyone in real time to each other and to the information they need, patients have a more positive experience, staff works more efficiently, and surgeons free up time for patient care.

About Colin Banas, M.D., M.H.A.
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Colin Banas, M.D., M.H.A. is Chief Medical Officer of DrFirst, and former Internal Medicine Hospitalist and former Chief Medical Information Officer for VCU Health System in Richmond, Virginia.