In the age of healthcare digitization and the desire for patient-provider transparency, the mobile healthcare app EASE—which stands for Electronic Access to Surgical Events—is hoping to change the way families and physicians communicate. The app keeps the anxiety-ridden waiting room experience transparent by sending relatives periodic text, video and photo updates of their loved ones’ progress. EASE joins a larger trend in which hospitals are applying different modes of mobile health to their health systems to ensure higher levels of communication and patient satisfaction.
The app allows one-way communication from nurses and doctors to families. It also contains pre-made phrases and messages in nine languages making it easier to eliminate language barriers between parties. The app functions engage physicians by providing tools to make communication simple and timely with the ability to send from anywhere in the hospital, even an operating room.
Patrick De La Rosa, founding member and CEO of EASE Applications, explains how the HIPAA-compliant app is “like snapchat from the operating room” since messages disappear after 60 seconds and nothing is saved to the device. To further ensure security, the app uses encryption protection similar to the technology used for mobile banking transactions to help doctors and nurses communicate freely and securely with patients’ families. EASE also requires all patients to sign consent forms giving permission to family members to access the app and receive updates. While EASE goes to great lengths to protect patient information, risks remain: all users are of course able to screenshot the app content, an obvious security issue since screenshots can be saved, sent and shared.
While the goal of EASE is to expand patient-provider communication within hospital systems, it is currently only offered in 60 of the 6,210 hospitals in the United States. A large reason for this is that it can be costly: EASE charges hospitals anywhere from $20,000 to $500,000 annually, depending on the size of the hospital system. While this means families do not pay anything to use the app, it also means hospitals usually opt out due to financial restraints. However, a study showed that implementation of EASE improved family satisfaction scores from 80% to 97% at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, which suggests the app may be worth the expense. Family satisfaction leads to increased patient loyalty and higher HCAHPS scores, which in turn affects the overall success of a health system.
As innovative as EASE is, it is not the only technological advancement focused on expanding patient transparency. The NewYork-Presbyterian app shares scheduled surgeries, risks, surgery end times and patient locations with patients and selected family members. Similar to EASE, the app provides surgical information to comfort patients and family members. Another example of an app contributing to the growing patient-provider transparency is NicView, a streaming video service that allows parents to watch their baby in the hospital from any internet-connected device.
Communication is a critical component of patient satisfaction and overall hospital experience. Digital advancements will continue to increase the competition and demand of real-time communication. Whether it be through a mobile app or other form of technology, hospitals will have to adopt new ways to address the growing desire for patient transparency and engagement while tackling the correlating challenges of high costs and security risks.