News Feature | August 21, 2014

The ROI Of E-Alerts For Your Healthcare IT Customers

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

E-Alerts For Your Healthcare IT Customers

The best way for your healthcare customers to attract new clients and continually prove their importance to existing ones, is to connect day-to-day operations to patients’ clinical outcomes. E-alerts (electronic reminders) have gained attention over the last couple of years for their benefits in both the work of physicians and in changing patient behavior.

For Providers

e-Alert systems aren’t new to helping physicians do their jobs. In Chicago, an informatics pharmacist at Mercy Hospital created an e-alert system that was incorporated into provider order sets. The goal was to increase rates of venous thromboembolism prophylaxis (VTE). Dr. Michael Mikrut, PharmD, in 2013, reviewed records from all admissions in the month of August, 2009 from two community nursing units to determine if VTE prophylaxis was ordered for med-surg patients on the end of their second day in the hospital. He found that it was ordered for 77 percent of patients, with a large difference between patients treated by residents (89 percent) and those not covered by residents (65 percent).

In response, Dr. Mikrut, Sonali Muzumdar, PharmD and informatics pharmacist, put together a multidisciplinary committee to improve compliance. Dr. Muzumdar created an e-alert that fires to prescribing physicians when they sign orders that do not include VTE prophylaxis. The alert not only notifies the ordering physicians, but it also gives them the option of either ordering prophylaxis, or explaining why they felt it was inappropriate. After six months, the rates had increased to 94 percent.

Preventing Surgical Site Infection

More recently, the technology has been applied to the patient level to help reduce the incidence of surgical site infections (SSIs). Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin took a group of 80 healthy volunteers in order to study the effects of an electronic reminder system on increasing the rate of antiseptic showers (with chlorhexidine gluconate) before surgery--something that’s often forgotten by patients, but is highly important in reducing SSI risk. A portion of the volunteers was alerted via text message, email, or voicemail to take a shower. The results revealed that those who had not received a reminder showed a 66 percent reduction in the concentration of antiseptic in contrast to those who hadn’t received the reminder. Ultimately, this type of reminder and similar ones can be used to help make the patient a part of the surgical risk-reduction process.

Economic Impact

Another VTE study revealed notable potential savings for healthcare entities. Worldwide concern over the underuse of appropriate thrombophylaxis prompted a 2011 study by the International Society On Thrombosis And Haemostasis in an effort to review the economic impact of VTE alerts. The study found a reduction in the direct cost per single hospitalized patient of 45 percent when electronic alerts were used. The study, conducted in Spain, estimated that if all patients were considered, total yearly savings would exceed $40 million.

Go Deeper

To review some options that providers have around electronic message delivery, read the Business Solutions article “Why Solutions Providers Should Consider Offering Mobile Messaging — Now.” 

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