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Electronic Reminders Can Help Patients Prevent Surgical Site Infections

August 1, 2014
by John DeGaspari
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A study reports on a simple digital messaging system that significantly increases patient compliance with a preadmission showering

The use of electronic reminders such as text messages, emails or voicemails is highly effective at getting surgical patients to adhere to a preadmission antiseptic showering regimen known to help reduce risk of surgical site infections (SSIs), according a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Each year approximately 400,000 SSIs occur and lead to a death rate approaching nearly 100,000 according to data sources cited by study authors. To help reduce the risk of these dangerous infections, clinicians recommend that surgical patients take antiseptic showers 24 to 48 hours before admission.

 “In general, getting patients to comply with this preadmission cleansing strategy is a challenge throughout health care,” said lead study author Charles E. Edmiston, Ph.D., professor of surgery and hospital epidemiologist, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, in a prepared satatement. “When you use a prompt like texting or emailing, you make the patient an intimate partner in the health care process.” 

For the study, researchers recruited 80 healthy volunteers who were randomized to one of four skin-antiseptic showering groups. Electronic alerts were sent as voicemails, text messages or emails, with text messages being the most popular method (80 percent) among volunteers. Volunteers were randomized to either taking two or three showers. Each of those groups was subdivided into groups that received an electronic prompt to shower or did not receive an electronic prompt.

The researchers found that the patients who did not receive digital communications reminding them to shower were significantly less compliant with preadmission orders compared with those who received the electronic 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,” Dr. Edmiston said.


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