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Study: For Post-Op Patients, Mobile Apps for Follow-Up Care Led to Fewer In-Person Visits

March 23, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

For patients undergoing ambulatory surgery, those who used a mobile app for follow-up care attended fewer in-person visits post- operation than patients who did not use the app, according to a study in JAMA Surgery.

Researchers from Toronto set out to determine whether follow-up care delivered via a mobile app can be used to avert in-person follow-up care visits compared with conventional, in-person follow-up care in the first 30 days following ambulatory surgery. The randomized clinical trial included 65 patients among ambulatory patients undergoing breast reconstruction at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

The mobile app follow-up group had no planned in-person follow-up at one week and four weeks after the operation. However, these visits were replaced with an examination of the surgical site via photographs submitted through the mobile app—from Toronto-based QoC Health—as well as monitoring of the results of the pain visual analog scale, and quality of recovery nine-item questionnaire.

The results revealed that the in-person group attended a mean 1.64 in-person visits during the first 30 days after surgery; this mean includes three patients who visited the emergency department. Comparatively, the mobile app group attended a mean 0.66 in-person visits during the first 30 days after surgery; no patients in the mobile app group visited the emergency department. Overall, the mobile app group was 0.40 times less likely to attend in-person follow-up care during the first 30 days after surgery compared with the in-person group, the researchers found.

What’s more, while was no statistically significant difference in satisfaction scores between groups, the group using the mobile app reported higher convenience scores than did the group receiving in-person follow-up care. Thirty-one patients in the mobile app group (97 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that the type of follow-up care they received was convenient. Only 16 patients in the in-person group (48 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that the type of follow-up care they received was convenient.

The researchers concluded, “A growing number of procedures, including complex operations such as autologous breast reconstruction, are offered in an ambulatory setting. Patients using the mobile app require approximately two minutes to input the quality of recovery, pain visual analog scale, and photographs of the surgical site. This ease of use allows patients to submit data frequently (i.e., daily or weekly), providing a continuous, richer inflow of information than could ever be achieved by telephone or in-person follow-up care… These are important findings given the current demands on the healthcare system and the push toward patient-centric care.”

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