Text message reminders could reduce risk of surgical infections

Text messages could help reduce the risk of on-site infections among surgical patients, a first-of-its-kind study has revealed.

Texting was found to be a highly effective way to ensure patients awaiting surgery comply with a preadmission antiseptic showering regimen, in which patients take antiseptic showers with chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) 24 to 48 hours before their procedure takes place.

Antiseptic showers reduce the amount of microbes on the surface of the skin, which in turn reduces the risk of surgical site infections (SSIs), mobihealthnews.com notes.

For the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, some 80 healthy volunteers were randomized and divided into two groups – Group A and Group B – before those individual groups were halved to give four: Group A1, A2, B1 and B2.

Group A was expected to take two antiseptic showers, while Group B was expected to take three. Text messages were sent to Groups A1 and B1, while A2 and B2 did not receive texts. Three hours after their last shower the participants’ skin CHG concentration was analysed. It was found that those who did not receive texts had 66 per cent lower CHG concentrations, indicating that the text message reminders increased patient compliance, sciencedaily.com reports.

Dr Charles Edmiston, the study’s lead author and professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said: “In general, getting patients to comply with this preadmission cleansing strategy is a challenge throughout health care. While patients want to be compliant, they will often forget to fulfil this preadmission requirement. So, that’s why we looked to new technology for a solution.

“When you use a prompt like texting…you make the patient an intimate partner in the health care process,” he added.