A surgery app now in use at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Specialty Care Center (CSCC) conveys to parents vital information they need prior to, during and after their child’s outpatient surgery.
Called Surgery Connect, the app was developed to streamline communication between nurses and parents and to provide a convenient means to access pre- and post-surgical instructions and details about an array of surgical procedures.
“It is sometimes difficult to contact parents by phone, and when we do, they may be answering while doing something else like driving, shopping, working—things that distract them from the information we are giving them about their child’s surgery,” says Beth Smith, BSN, RN, CSCC Perioperative Services. Smith and Emily Pharr, BSN, RN, were instrumental in developing the app.
“Previously we spent a lot of time making calls to remind parents about arrival times and NPO instructions, often with the result of playing ‘telephone tag’.”
The solution was to develop an app geared toward tech-savvy Millennial parents. A week prior to a child’s surgery, nurses call parents to conduct a medical screening. At that time, parents who want to use Surgery Connect are instructed to download the free iPhone and Android app and are provided with a code consisting of their child’s case number and the last four digits of their primary phone number.
Once connected to the app, parents receive important reminders such as the time of their child’s surgical procedure, when they are to arrive at the CSCC, NPO prompts and discharge instructions. They also may access descriptions of the outpatient surgeries performed at the CSCC, what they should do to prepare for the surgery, what to expect upon arrival and the amenities available while waiting, such as how to access the CSCC’s Wi-Fi.
“The app also allows operating room nurses to provide updates to parents during the procedure. Then the post-op nurse sends a text to let them know they can come to recovery to see their child and talk to the surgeon,” says Pharr.
Alissa Haycraft is one of many parents who have found Surgery Connect to be a valuable resource for information and reassurance when her 5-year-old son, Michael, underwent an adenotonsillectomy at the CSCC.
“For me, the best features of the app were the easy-to- access preparation instructions for surgery, the ability to load it on multiple devices, and communication about my son’s progress during surgery,” she says. “My parents met us at the CSCC that morning. My father downloaded the app and looked up directions and arrival instructions himself. It was such a blessing not to worry about them getting lost. The app allowed my husband and me to focus on our son.”
Since its introduction last fall, 78 percent of parents have opted to use Surgery Connect. Among the most popular screens viewed have been descriptions of procedures, how to prepare for the surgery, details about the visit to the CSCC, home care, and what to do the night before and day of surgery.
“The Surgery Connect app has given us another effective way to communicate with patients and families in the pre- and peri-operative period,” says Washington University physician David Leonard, MBBCh, attending physician in otolaryngology/ head and neck surgery, and co-medical director of the CSCC. “It is a valuable reference that parents can turn to at their own convenience for information about their child’s procedure— both general information about the surgery and the expected post-operative course, and specifics such as their arrival and surgical times.”
He adds, “As our patient and parent populations become more connected, I am confident the Surgery Connect app will continue to become an increasingly important communication tool.”
Smith and Pharr plan to expand the information available on Surgery Connect, ranging from medication reminders to hotel listings, and possibly extend usage to outpatients and inpatients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s main campus and to other BJC HealthCare facilities.
“More broadly, this concept has the potential of helping manage patient care; for instance, a newly diabetic patient could use a similar app to input their sugars, with that information accessible to a hospital caregiver who can help them learn how to manage their disease,” says Smith. “The possibilities are exciting.”
To learn more about Surgery Connect, call Children’s Direct at 800.678.HELP (4357).