St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) is among the first St. Louis-area hospitals to use EASE (Electronic Access to Surgical Events), a new HIPAA-compliant, secure texting service that allows clinical staff to communicate patient updates to families from the operating room.
EASE mimics texting apps most people use every day and allows patient families to open a window into the operating room with texts, photos and videos sent directly from surgical staff in real time. Families receive short updates approximately every 30 minutes.
The app provides a simple but powerful one-way communication tool for families, enhancing transparency and improving the doctor- patient relationship. It has proven to reduce anxiety and impact the overall process.
“Until now, the operating room was somewhat of a black box to patient families,” says Washington University physician Pirooz Eghtesady, MD, SLCH cardiothoracic surgeon-in-chief and co-director of The Heart Center at SLCH and Washington University School of Medicine. “Anything we can do to lessen the anxiety of parents, to reassure them, is a step in the right direction.”
Sara Melton is one of the parents who gained comfort from receiving regular updates while her 14-month-old daughter, Wynter, was undergoing heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect.
“I was kept informed every step of the way—when Wynter’s IVs were started and the incision made, when she went on and off the bypass machine, when the doctor would be out to talk with us. The nurse even sent us a picture of Wynter’s heart once the holes had been closed,” says Melton. “There was a whole group of us waiting, and we looked forward to receiving each update. It was reassuring to know the progress that was being made, and that Wynter was doing well throughout the surgery.”
First piloted in The Heart Center, EASE’s use is expanding to more areas of the hospital to provide greater patient satisfaction. A recently completed study of more than 2,000 families who had experienced EASE found that 98 percent said receiving updates during their loved one’s medical procedure reduced their anxiety, while 80 percent of the respondents said that the availability of the app would influence their choice of a hospital in the future.