One of the known risks of surgery is surgical site infection (SSI) — an infection that occurs after surgery on the site where the skin was cut. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the chances of patients having an SSI post-surgery is only about 1-3 percent. However, the implications can be severe—both in terms of patient safety and increased costs of care.
From a patient safety standpoint, SSIs are the most common healthcare-acquired infection. There are an estimated 160,000-300,000 incidents in the U.S. each year, with associated costs of up to $60,000/incident, according to an article in Becker’s Hospital Review.
The single best way to stay ahead of an ER visit or a readmission is to have 24/7 communication with each surgical patient when they leave the facility and to provide that patient a simple means of immediately notifying the correct person in the care team. Too often, a patient is discharged, wakes up at midnight, notices heat or fluid and has no idea to whom they should reach out. Until very recently, there was no simple, automatic means by which a patient could receive the 24/7 service needed to stay ahead of SSIs.
They’re also the most costly. In terms of cost, SSIs have been shown to result in readmissions and increased lengths of stay (LOS). According to one study, the median additional LOS attributable to SSI can be as high as 10 days.
And they’re complicated because the risks of patients’ acquiring an SSI relates to both their behaviors and healthcare organizations’ processes.
There are certain known risk factors for SSI which include:
- Having other medical problems or diseases (e.g. diabetes, cancer)
- Smoking: all patients should stop smoking prior to surgery
- Being elderly
- Being overweight
Documenting these risk factors is, obviously, important. In addition, from the provider standpoint, surgeries that last longer than two hours may raise risks as can the presence of any potential contaminants that enter the site. And, of course, contamination is always a concern pre-, during and post-operation.
Keeping communication lines open are a must, but patients need to know what they should look for and understand the importance of alerting their providers if they develop any signs or symptoms which may include:
- A feeling of warmth at the site
ViiMed’s digital health platform allows for personalized recorded images, video and remote monitoring, allowing patients to document any signs of potential SSI and notify providers in real-time. Patients simply upload a photo of the suspect incision into their pathway and this is immediately sent to the PA or surgeon following the patient on discharge. Whomever is set up in the ViiMed platform to receive the incision photo can view it, assess the image and accompanying information, then notify the patient ten minutes later on next steps. The surgeon can call in an antibiotic prescription, or the PA can schedule an appointment first thing the next day. The patient is taken care of in real time, true SSI’s can be sorted from false flags and only those who truly need immediate attention will go to the ER.
Automating this process and allowing for the capture of information, notification of appropriate individuals, documentation and shared access to patient records not only allows providers to catch post-operative infections early but also automatically notifies the appropriate people once test results are in. Then, the hospital and perioperative team can also use the ViiMed platform to do a monthly or quarterly analysis on SSIs, using the ViiMed dashboard. This will allow for a more comprehensive and easier root cause analysis.
This process of remote monitoring and automated workflow helps to coordinate interactions between patients and their care teams, while also providing an automated interface with the EMR.
When it comes to the potential added expense and risk associated with SSIs, speed is critical: “now” is much better than “tomorrow”.
ViiMed provides healthcare software solutions to help improve care coordination between patients, caregivers and providers by extending automated, personalized care plans for patients to self-manage their treatments and recovery, and for providers to proactively engage and remotely monitor patients via telehealth applications. Our customizable, scalable and secure SaaS platform seamlessly integrates with electronic medical records and other health IT applications. Healthcare organizations rely on ViiMed to help standardize care, monitor patient care quality and safety, improve patient and family satisfaction, track outcomes, and increase operational efficiency and financial performance.