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Hospitals can curb waiting room anxiety for families by using new surgery update app

Hospital waiting room

Time spent in a waiting room can be nerve-racking when waiting for news about a loved one’s surgery. New apps have emerged aimed at curbing waiting room anxiety but most hospitals, so far, have failed to use them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, many companies are developing ways to give worried loved ones frequent updates on what’s happening during surgeries or hospital stays. Initially intended to give updates about surgeries on children, the apps are now being used for all kinds of procedures and people of all ages. Still, these apps are available in only a fraction of the nation’s hospitals. One app called EASE, for example, is offered in just over 60 hospitals out of more than 6,200 in the U.S.

Obstacles to providing the apps include costs and hospital staff reluctance to add one more thing to their to-do lists.

Tools allow parents a peek inside

EASE — Electronic Access to Surgical Events — is an app that buzzes every 30 minutes to remind nurses to send a text, video or photo update to waiting relatives. Updates can include notification that the patient is under anesthesia and photos of the patient being wheeled into the recovery room, for example.

Nurses can use the app to send updates to parents when they can’t be at the hospital. Hamish Munro, a Florida pediatric anesthesiologist, co-founded EASE Applications in Orlando, Florida, in 2014 with Patrick de la Roza. De la Roza said being without a way of curbing waiting room anxiety didn’t make sense. Technology lets people track food or packages they’ve ordered, so why not a loved one’s operating room condition?

“You look at hospitals spending millions on fancy atriums, lobbies, all of which don’t really move the needle. This improves satisfaction, and hospital loyalty, and those are very important,” de la Roza said in a story on thedailybeast.com.

To comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law established in 1996 that protects the privacy of patients’ medical data, EASE encrypts all communication between health-care providers and patients’ families. It works like Snapchat: Images from hospital staff disappear after 60 seconds and can’t be saved from the app.

Here's how the new app works

The app contains pre-made phrases and messages in nine languages, allowing nurses to communicate with families who don’t speak English. Families can text heart and folded-hands emojis to show their appreciation for an update—something the app makers said has made a difference to nurses. Families use the app for free. EASE charges hospitals $20,000 to $500,000 annually, depending on the size of the hospital system.

At Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, 97 percent of families rated their experience at the hospital as very good after the EASE updates were established. That’s compared to 80 percent of families giving a rating of very good before the app.

Natus Medical Inc. of Pleasanton California sells a streaming video service called NicView so parents can watch their babies in the hospital from any internet-connected device.

Challenges of spreading the NicView update technology include nurses’ worried about being watched all the time and called by anxious parents, and the price. It costs $1,500 to $2,000 to install each camera, plus an annual fee of about $200 each.

Epic Systems Corp., a healthcare software giant based in Wisconsin, added a text-updating app in 2017 to its participating hospitals. Only about 20 percent of them use the update function during procedures.

Contact the Tyrone Law Firm today for help with cases in curbing waiting room anxiety, as well as for help with birth injury issues.

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