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A Patient's Frustrating Journey to Surgery: A Tech-less Preoperative Nightmare

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*Disclaimer: the following account is based on a real patient experience.

After injuring his shoulder and enduring persistent pain, a patient decided to undergo surgery in hopes of finding relief.

With no underlying complications, he expected a straightforward process, but instead experienced a care pathway littered with inefficiencies and miscommunications at every turn.

The inefficiencies began with the preoperative assessment (POA), which was conducted over the phone and lasted over an hour. The nurse had to painstakingly write down every detail he shared, making the process feel unnecessarily long and complicated for both him and the nurse.

Once his POA was approved, he was booked for surgery, but in an unexpected turn of events, he contracted COVID.

The surgery had to be postponed and he had to retake his POA. But the clinic never informed him of the new date for the assessment, so he had to chase the information himself.

The patient expected the call for his POA at 2pm, but it didn’t come through until 6:30pm. On top of this, the assessment was further delayed because of a clerical error; they had 3 triplicate files for him.

After all the back-and-forth, his surgery was rescheduled.

But the problems didn’t stop there.

He hadn’t heard anything from the clinic regarding his operation and the day was quickly approaching. He once again took matters into his own hands, contacted the surgeon directly, and found out his surgery had been rescheduled. Again. But no one alerted him and the surgeon didn’t know the reason for the rescheduling either.

He had to redo his POA, his surgery was rebooked, and finally, the day of his operation arrived. It was only then that he was given a consent form — just an hour before his surgery, which, thankfully, was successful.

In the end, he found himself with a stack of 30 double-sided documents — several duplicates — which is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what the clinic keeps on record.*

His care pathway was marred with problems and delays due to administrative burdens, a lack of operational efficiency, and poor communication.

Imagine how different the patient’s care journey would’ve been if the clinic had a robust POA digital solution.

With a digital platform, the POA questionnaire could have been sent automatically via email or SMS, which patients could complete at their convenience. It would eliminate the overly long phone calls and save time, not just for the patients but also for the healthcare provider.

All communications, like date changes, and essential information, like consent forms, would be received well in advance. This would reduce the number of patients being labelled as ‘Did Not Attend’ simply because they’re unaware of a rescheduled date or, on the other hand, showing up for surgery even though it’s been postponed.

Patients wouldn’t accumulate a mountain of paper that they’d eventually throw out. It would also drastically decrease paper use for healthcare providers since every action would be documented and immediately accessible, reducing errors and duplicate files in the process.

It’s important to consider that in this instance, the patient was a low-complexity case. But what if he had been more complex? How would his care pathway have looked then?

This is why digital solutions are immensely beneficial. They can help with communication and efficiency, but they can also enable early patient screening and risk stratification, allowing for effective planning, optimised use of resources, an increase in the pool of patients ready for surgery, and an enhanced patient experience.

In light of changing patient needs and increased demand, reliable POA digital solutions are no longer optional, but rather essential, to pave the way for more efficient and proactive services.


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