Elective surgeries comprise 60% of hospital revenues, so that’s why hospitals and ASCs are looking to restart elective services—stat.

A rebound in COVID-19 cases as cities, regions and states open back up remains a possibility, which is why hospitals and ASCs should proceed slowly with the resumption of elective procedures. Hospitals and ASCs should also explore the use of mobile apps to increase communications with patients and employees as well as reduce no-shows and readmission rates.

Nearly three-quarters of same-day cancellations are attributable to inadequate patient preparation, and a modest improvement in the no-show rate can save facilities $199 per procedure or as much as $3M annually – based on the average of 10,000 surgeries per year. Likewise, a mobile app that clarifies patient discharge instructions has been shown to reduce preventable readmissions by $101 per procedure.

Executives should keep the following four issues in mind as restarts loom, then read on to discover how mobile apps can help.

1. Increase testing capacity. A survey taken in late April indicates that nearly 90% of hospitals plan to test patients perioperatively but that only 27% were currently able to do so. The main barriers to increased testing are shortages of reagents and testing swabs.

Further, 80% said they intended to screen all employees for the coronavirus before resuming elective procedures but only one-third believed they could obtain enough tests for their clinical staff to do so. Overall, respondents believe testing capacity would need to double before elective procedures could resume fully.

2. Easing patient concerns. As the pandemic hit, patients who believed they had the virus were encouraged to stay at home unless their breathing was impacted. In addition to halting elective procedures, many medical practices closed for patients except for those with emergent conditions. As a result, hospital volumes for non-COVID-19 cases dropped sharply as people managed on their own.

Now that the messaging has changed from stay at home to come on in, how do providers communicate a very different message from just weeks earlier, especially to those with chronic conditions?

3. Manage a surge, personnel (or not). No one can predict whether pent-up demand for elective surgeries and delayed procedures will overwhelm hospitals or keep OR suites and procedures rooms empty. Much will depend on local conditions and how well a facility can get its message across.

The availability of personnel is also a concern. If your facility has seen many coronavirus patients, your front-line staff likely have been working insane hours and need time to rest, recuperate and reconnect with family and friends.

4. Become more efficient. By the time hospitals and ASCs reopen fully, the potential case backlog could exceed 45 days. Because cashflow has been severely affected, facilities want those folks to return, making efficiency critical for both providers and patients. Efficiency benefits providers and facilities through fewer costly cancellations or preventable readmissions while optimizing surgical and procedures rooms and personnel. Patients benefit by being properly informed and ready for their procedures, receiving the care they need without delay.

How mobile apps can help

A healthcare app from the local hospital, ASC or health system is a natural fit among people who are interested in their health. Hours, locations of urgent care clinics, ER wait times, physician directory, driving directions and more are common features of provider-specific healthcare apps.

To help ease the procedure backlog, create efficiencies and save money through fewer cancellations and preventable readmissions, providers can “prescribe” a perioperative app that educates patients and helps them get ready for their procedures.

Hospitals, health systems and ASCs that have Epic or Cerner electronic health records (EHR) systems can find perioperative mobile apps that can be easily integrated into workflows.

The app can include information about the procedure, educational materials, post-care instructions and a checklist of items that need to be completed before showing up on the day of the procedure. Information from apps flows to the patient record where data can be rolled up into a dashboard so staff can manage the exceptions.

Other apps on the market are helping hospitals and ASCs manage the pandemic through proactive communications and authoritative information for employees or the community. Apps can also be used to screen workers and patients for potential COVID-19 symptoms.

Like other industries, healthcare isn’t expected to suddenly return to normal. Normalcy will come only through time and a concerted effort by healthcare executives to make it happen. Mobile apps can be part of the recovery process.

Bruce KennedyAbout the Author
Bruce Kennedy is Vice President of Provider Development for MobileSmith Health. A healthcare marketing strategist with more than 20 years’ experience in multiple care delivery environments, including surgical patient safety and quality and digital hospital product development, Kennedy leads MobileSmith Health’s expansion of new and existing hospital client and project growth as well as oversees client success operations and client application utilization.