Total joint replacement surgeries are expected to increase by more than 150% in the next 10 years, bringing with them a tsunami of healthcare costs for Americans. In 2017, joint replacement surgeries cost around $25 billion for commercially insured Blue Cross Blue Shield members alone.
Though the government and private payers are working to drive down these costs, today's longer life expectancies and higher quality of life standards are making this much harder to accomplish. One solution, which would save both hospitals and patients money, is evident in a recent study we performed in conjunction with a 4-hospital healthcare system in the Midwest.
We examined the impact of a two-way digital connection on outcomes for total joint replacement patients. Our findings provide evidence-based proof that digital education, alerts, reminders and notifications do change patient behaviors and drive down healthcare costs.
The study looked at engaging joint replacement patients with email and text messages before, during and after their hospital stay. With strategically timed, highly relevant and “personal” touches, we saw that digital patient education both improves care and lowers costs for hospitals. In fact, we saw a positive impact across all key metrics that were important to the hospital system, including readmission, discharge destination and day-of-surgery cancellation. Digital education also had a statistically significant impact on length of stay and emergency department use, meaning there is little likelihood these effects were due to chance. Among the study’s findings:
A 25% of a day reduction in length of stay for hip replacement patients; 13% for knee replacement patients
A 50% reduction in emergency room visits by hip replacement patients who were highly engaged (opening more than 50% of the digital prompts)
Early identification of at-risk patients, enabling hospitals to provide low-engagers with additional support
Equally high engagement across insurance types; 71% of patients were highly engaged regardless of whether they had private or public (Medicare/Medicaid) insurance
What does this mean for hospitals, insurers and patients? With the dramatic growth in elective procedures such as joint replacement surgery, the pressure for hospitals to lower costs and leverage patients as active participants in their care will continue to accelerate.
Reaching beyond the four walls of the hospital to provide a connection with patients throughout their care journey—and integrating education into their everyday lives—leads to better results for patients, hospitals and payers.
By digitally engaging patients throughout their episode of care, hospitals will meet regulatory requirements, improve outcomes and reduce costs. Shorter stays translate to room for more patients, increasing the hospital’s revenue stream. Insurance companies will spend less money on patients who have a shorter length of stay and fewer emergency room visits.
Patient satisfaction has been shown to increase with stronger connections, guidance and support from the hospital. And a satisfied patient is more likely to return for another procedure or to refer the hospital to a friend or family member. Healthier patients who feel confident to manage their own care will have better outcomes, ultimately costing the hospital and insurers less money.