For too long hospitals have made the mistake that grand hospital entrances, flat screen TVs, water features and a self playing piano can improve patient and family satisfaction. They certainly help create a less intimidating environment and provide distraction, but the real driver of patient satisfaction is communication. Patients and their loved ones simply want communication and transparency.
For HIPAA and security reasons, EASE messages disappear after 60 seconds and nothing is saved to the device. This feature often makes families think of the social media app Snapchat. EASE allows medical professionals to communicate freely and securely using texts, photos and videos. Families of patients have been left in the dark for years wanting nothing more than information on their loved one receiving medical care. St. Louis Children’s and the St. Louis Children’s Heart Center clearly understand the importance of this type of communication. Below are some quick highlights from a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on what EASE is doing for St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s patients and families. You can also read the full article here.
“Patients have no clue what happens in there, and it causes a tremendous amount of anxiety,” said Dr. Pirooz Eghtesady, chief cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “The operating room is the only part that is not visible.”
Eghtesady has spent years trying to figure out how to make the operating room more accessible to his patients. He finally found the answer in a smartphone app, now available for every heart surgery at the hospital, and plans to expand its use.
It’s like Snapchat from the operating room.
The app is similar to the popular social media app that shares images, texts and videos in that content disappears after a minute and is not stored. But these posts are only shared from medical staff to whomever is signed up to see them — even to family members in other cities.
“Part of the stress is the unknown. Being able to know what’s going on and being able to see is definitely helpful,” Bryan Noblitt father to Tanner having open heart surgery. “It makes us feel close to Tanner.” Noblitt’s idea of an operating room comes from the movies and medical equipment he has seen, he said. “But you don’t know what it’s like in your son’s room, and now you do.”
The app uses encryption protection similar to that used for mobile banking transactions. Medical team members using the app receive special training to ensure they are compliant with privacy laws.
Operating room nurse Amber Hinterthuer said she and other nurses at St. Louis Children’s were skeptical at first, unsure if the app would be something families would be comfortable using. Now she’s the app’s biggest champion. “It was an eye-opener to see how much positive vibes came from the families and how happy they are,” she said. “It’s been overwhelming to know how many families appreciate this.”
Hinterthuer is advocating for its use in other surgeries as well as intensive care units, when families can’t continually be by the side of their loved one. Families receive updates every 30 minutes to an hour from a circulating nurse in the room. Emergencies are still shared in person. Users let the nurse know how much they want to see.
As with any new technology or process it can be intimidating and unfamiliar at first, however the benefits of EASE are overwhelmingly positive. In over 4,000 surveys at one hospital, 93% of families said EASE would influence their choice of hospital. EASE should be the standard of care at every hospital, as it creates trust, transparency and improves the patient provider relationship. Secure medical texting during surgery, NICU and ICU stays is now easy to do for all clinical staff.
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Family members receiving an EASE update at St. Louis Children’s Hospital