Rush deploys messaging software to improve postsurgery recoveries

Doc with tablet
Convenient delivery of important medical information appears to increase the likelihood that patients follow postsurgical recovery protocols.

Rush University Medical Center is leaning on technology to keep surgery patients on the recommended path to healing.

As in other areas of medicine, providers can do a lot to help patients when they’re in the hospital, but what patients do at home, outside of a hospital or doctor’s purview, can be equally important. Patients who fail to adhere to medications and treatment protocols cost the healthcare system money. That has in turn caused providers to seek out ways to boost adherence through more personalized care, for example, via text messages reminding patients to take their medications.

Rush tapped a similar technology to support its ERAS program, short for “enhanced recovery after surgery.” The medical center offers patients a downloadable app called SeamlessMD, which is accessible via phone, tablet, and computer. The app then prompts patients to remind them about any instructions from their surgeon—information that can be particularly difficult for patients to absorb after a surgical procedure, notes the medical center’s announcement, which describes the technology.

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The key to the success of ERAS lies in providing information in a way that’s convenient for patients, says Anthony Perry, M.D., vice president for ambulatory care and population health at Rush. He points out that patients have received the same information for years in other forms, but having it available on their phones makes a difference. “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 says.

Surgical staff in Rush’s colorectal group worked to customize the app for their patients and initiated the program in December 2014. The medical center reports a reduction of 2.2 days in the average length of stay for patients under the program and an uptick in patient satisfaction scores. Rush has subsequently expanded the program to other areas in the hospital, with more planned in the coming years.