Greenwich Hospital introduces text message update service

Patients having ambulatory surgery at Greenwich Hospital can now choose to keep designated friends and family updated on their status via secure, one-way text messages from the patient healthcare team.

Launched in the hospital’s Ambulatory Surgery Unit in July, the text update program is offered through FamilyTouch, a free, HIPAA compliant messaging service. Greenwich is the only hospital in the Northeast currently offering FamilyTouch.

“Studies have proven that clear and open communication between patients, caregivers and family members plays an important role in an outstanding patient experience” Christine Beechner, RN, vice president of patient and guest relations, said. “Receiving timely updates on a patient’s surgery status is immensely reassuring to loved ones, whether they’re in the waiting room or across the country.”

The text messages, available in English or Spanish, are private, secure and sent only to those specifically designated by the patient, prior to surgery. Each person on the list is assigned a separate personal identification number (PIN), which the patient then sends to them. Once verified, the staff will text updates, including, for example, when surgery has begun, when the patient arrives in recovery and when they are ready to be discharged. This messaging is in addition to the normal hospital communication.

Text technology can also significantly decrease the number of phone and in-person update requests of nursing staff. This leaves caregivers more time to spend with the patient, another factor that contributes to a positive patient experience.

Lorraine Love was one of the first to use the text update service when her husband, Vincent, underwent surgery at Greenwich recently.

“So often, it’s not knowing where a person is in the process that’s so frustrating,” she said. “It is so helpful to have this general information without having to pester the staff.”

Psychologist Andrew Tatarsky also saw value in the service while his wife, Wendy, was in surgery. “I appreciated being made aware of the progress at every step, so I wasn’t left just wondering. It is very useful psychologically.”

According to FamilyTouch developer and CEO Richard Siegrist, anecdotal comments from family members indicate the importance of well-done communication during a stressful time. Siegrist, a Harvard School of Public Health professor and former CEO of Press Ganey, the nation’s leader in patient satisfaction measurement, says improving family communication is the sole focus of FamilyTouch, a fact that differentiates the company from others offering texting services as part of a broad suite of products.

“In the weeks since launching the service, we’ve sent more than 1,500 messages, and feedback from patients, families and staff alike has been very positive,” Ms. Beechner said.

The hospital plans to expand the service to include other departments in the near future.

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