Health IT

One hospital’s solution to improving the OR waiting area? Texting.

Six months ago, members of the surgery team at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. set out to fix the gap in communication they experienced with families who had to wait anxiously for hours as their children underwent surgical procedures. To create a workable solution that would increase its efficiency in communication, the hospital […]

Six months ago, members of the surgery team at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. set out to fix the gap in communication they experienced with families who had to wait anxiously for hours as their children underwent surgical procedures.

To create a workable solution that would increase its efficiency in communication, the hospital joined up with e3DataSolutions to develop MyCareText, a HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based mobile messaging system that lets hospitals text the loved ones of patients undergoing surgical procedures.

It’s a simple concept: Whenever a patient’s status changes, a hospital staff member — usually a receptionist or nurse — uses the program to send a generic, prewritten text message (something like, “Patient is now in surgery”) to cellphone numbers provided in advance by the patient’s family. They can also send messages to the patient’s phone before procedures, like reminders not to eat or drink anything.

About 46 million surgical procedures were performed in 2006, and a small 2010 study found that receiving information about a patient made the waiting experience more manageable for family members, even if only to notify them of the stage of surgery. To do this, more hospitals are now installing patient-tracking boards that indicate a patient’s progress by identifying him with a unique number that’s shared with the family. Other hospitals use pagers, some of which also have small screens for messages to be sent to waiting people.

But the value proposition for MyCareText is twofold, according to Davin Green, head of strategy and business development. “Patient satisfaction comes from keeping family informed, but there’s also a gain in efficiency because you have direct contact with the family — that eliminates the doctor having to track people down,” he said. It also allows for direct communication with other loved ones who aren’t waiting on site and it improves communication among hospital staff, he added.

After two months of testing, the program began running last week at Children’s National. No one from the hospital was available to comment for this story, but Green said his team has received several hundred emails over the past couple months from other hospitals inquiring about the system, and it should be commercially available soon.

Hospitals would subscribe to MyCareText, which is programmed with multiple languages and requires only an Internet connection to use. To maintain security and privacy the system purges contact information 24 hours after a procedure.

Currently, there are similar products on the market geared toward helping hospitals improve the waiting room experience, but none with the specific purpose and features of MyCareText. HME Wireless markets a text messaging-enabled pager for waiting rooms, but it only works within a certain distance of the hospital. Queue Mobile offers a mobile solution for waiting rooms, but it is geared more toward patients and families waiting to be seen by providers.