Text Message Reminder Program Linked to Lowered Post Op Infection Rates

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The results from a small study conducted by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin are proving that simple text message-based patient engagement efforts can pay dividends for health systems trying to improve outcomes. The study, which was published in this month’s Journal of the American College of Surgeons, used text message reminders in an effort to increase patient compliance with important at-home preoperative care instructions.

The study followed 80 patients scheduled to have surgery. Each patient was instructed to take a series of antiseptic showers prior to the surgery. Antiseptic showers help prevent post-operative infections by reducing the amount of microbes on the skin on the day of surgery. The researchers broke the 80 participants into two groups. One group was told to take two showers on the days leading up to surgery, while the second group was told to take three showers. Each group was then split into two subgroups, with half receiving text message reminders to take the showers, while the other half received no reminder.

All participants were tested for antimicrobial concentrations on their skin on the day of surgery and the researchers found that patients who did not receive text-message reminders had 66 percent less antimicrobial concentrations than those that received the reminders. This reduction was consistent across both the group instructed to take two showers, and those that were instructed to take three. The findings led researchers to conclude that patients that do not receive preadmission reminders arrive far less prepared for their surgeries than those that do receive reminders.

“I think a study like this provides us with a tremendous opportunity to empower patients because it clearly makes them an intimate partner in the whole health care experience. It’s reminding them that they are not a passive player but rather an active participant in an important risk-reduction strategy that if successfully completed can contribute to an improved clinical outcome.” – Charles E. Edmiston, PhD, professor of surgery and hospital epidemiologist, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Researchers say the next step in the evaluation of text message reminders is to measure post operative surgical site infections of the group that received the reminders versus those that did not. The study, while simple in its application of text message reminders, suggests that real improvements to clinical outcomes may be achieved through well designed digital patient engagement strategies.


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