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7 Ways Surgery Centers Use Texting Postoperatively During COVID-19

What is more important for an ambulatory surgery center (ASC): effective preoperative communication or postoperative communication? The answer seems obvious. Effective preoperative communication ultimately required for ensuring patients arrive for their procedure on time, adequately prepared for their treatment, and ready to cover their estimated expenses. When preoperative communication is successful, outcomes tend to be as well.

But a strong argument can be made that postoperative communication has taken on much greater significance over the past few years, with the COVID-19 pandemic further elevating its importance. We know this to be the case because our conversations with ambulatory surgery centers increasingly include discussions about how text messaging can help meet, improve, and streamline postoperative communications.

Here are seven ways ambulatory surgery centers are using postoperative texting during the health crisis.

1. Contact tracing

Contact tracing is an essential step in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Ambulatory surgery centers are now sending automated postoperative text surveys to patients — typically 7 days and 14 days following an in-person visit to their facility — to ask whether patients have developed COVID-19 symptoms. If patients indicate they have symptoms in their text reply, contact tracing can begin for patients, staff, and anyone else who was at the ASC on the day of the procedure.

2. Mass communication concerning a positive test

If a patient, staff member, physician, or visitor to an ambulatory surgery center tests positive for COVID-19, ASCs are using text messaging to quickly and effectively inform those who may have interacted or shared space with the positive individual. This text typically includes a note advising the recipient to self-quarantine. It may also notify patients that they should expect to hear from the local health department concerning contact tracing.

3. Initiating telehealth

To reduce direct contact during the pandemic, ambulatory surgery centers — and their affiliated practices — are increasingly leaning on digital information and communication technologies (i.e., telehealth) to interact with patients prior to and following treatment. For postoperative purposes, telehealth is permitting ASCs and surgeons to virtually answer questions about wound care, changing dressings, infection concerns, and other matters for which seeing the patient and the surgical site is necessary.

Text messaging is helping facilitate telehealth appointments. Ambulatory surgery centers are sending text messages that include direct hyperlinks to initiate appointments. When links in these texts are selected, a web browser or default videotelephony app should automatically open and the camera on the phone should activate. This makes telehealth simple for patients and ASCs.

4. Patient satisfaction surveys

Text messaging is one of the most effective ways to encourage patients to complete satisfaction surveys. Ambulatory surgery centers are sending text messages that invite patients to complete their short survey and include a link to the survey in the text. When patients click the link, they are brought to the online survey, which they can conveniently complete on their smartphone.

We have seen several ASCs recently add questions about whether patients felt adequately informed about new policies and procedures concerning COVID-19 and used the feedback to improve their preoperative communication and patient preparation.

5. Reputation management

If patients express satisfaction with their surgery and overall experience, ambulatory surgery centers are using texting to ask these satisfied patients to leave positive reviews online.

6. Collections

Before devoting resources to making calls and/or mailing letters to patients concerning outstanding payments, ambulatory surgery centers are sending well-worded, polite texts reminding these patients that payment is still due. These texts often include a link to an online bill pay portal when an ASC offers such a mechanism.

While requesting payment via text may seem unusual, such a method is familiar to most people. Many other industries already employ texting for payment prompts, including major credit cards and telecommunications companies.

7. Value-based care

For ambulatory surgery centers that have entered into value-based contracts (e.g., bundled payments), text messaging is helping complete the required postoperative work. This includes inquiring about potential surgical site infections and providing guidance and answers to questions concerning medications and therapy prescribed as part of the surgical recovery plan.

Adding Postoperative Text Messaging

Ambulatory surgery centers interested in leveraging postoperative texting should learn more about Dialog Health's post-appointment text messaging bundle. It features modules for all of the outreach efforts highlighted above, with each module including sample text messages ASCs can easily adapt for their specific needs. To learn more about adding post-appointment text messaging, schedule a demo, email, or call (877) 666-1132.



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