Texting system shortens hospital stays

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Hospitals have long recognized the importance of communication in improving patient outcomes and lengths of hospital stay, but how can providers actually improve communication?  A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine suggests part of the answer may involve the use of a text-messaging system rather than the standard paging system.

Researchers, led by Mitesh S. Patel, M.D., an assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management in Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and The Wharton School, conducted a study of 11,500 patients in two hospitals. One hospital transitioned from the traditional paging system to secure text messages on select floors and saw its average length of stay fall from six to 5.4 days in a month, while the average didn't budge on similar floors at the second hospital that kept the paging system. Over a year, after controlling for external factors such as time trends and patient profiles, Patel and his team found patients' stays were about 14 percent shorter when their provider used the secure messaging system. However, researchers found the communication system had no effect on readmission rates.

"Many forms of communications within the hospital are shifting mediums in part due to the rising adoption of smartphones and new mobile applications. However, little is known about how these changes impact clinical care and patient outcomes," Patel, who is also a staff physician at Crescenz VA Medical Center, said in the study announcement. "Our findings suggest that mobile secure text messaging may help to improve communication among providers leading to more efficient care coordination and allowing patients to leave the hospital sooner."

Many in healthcare have questioned doctors and other providers' continued use of pagers, although proponents argue they are lower-maintenance and useful in disaster situations such as power outages, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the study announcement

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