3 Ways Technology is Helping Heart Surgery Patients Recover at Baystate Health

March 29, 2022

This article was reviewed by our Baystate Health team to ensure medical accuracy.

Daniel T. Engelman, MD Daniel T. Engelman, MD View Profile
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According to Cheryl Crisafi, Nurse Coordinator at Baystate Cardiology, the factors that influence a successful cardiac surgery aren’t just found within the walls of the operating room. “In fact, a successful procedure begins weeks before the actual surgery, lasts throughout their hospital stay, and continues to evolve well after the patient has been discharged and sent home.”

In Crisafi’s opinion, one of the biggest keys to success is how well the patient is informed about their treatment, medication, and resources related to their recovery. “We believe an informed patient is an empowered patient. The more they understand, the better equipped they are to prepare for surgery and recover.”

Bridging the information gap with technology

“The challenge has always been that there’s a tremendous amount of information to share with patients,” says Dr. Daniel Engelman, cardiac surgeon and medical director of the cardiac surgical heart and vascular ICU with Baystate Cardiac Surgery, “but thrusting huge stacks of paper at them wasn’t cutting it. That’s why we turned to technology.”

Over the past 3 years, the Division of Cardiac Surgery at Baystate has developed and implemented three technology-based programs specifically designed to improve the patient experience surrounding open heart surgery procedures. They include:

  • A personalized engagement and education app
  • Televised patient-room education videos
  • An opioid reduction app

Here’s a look at what each provides.

1. Personalized Engagement and Education App

Accessible on any Android or iOS device, this innovative and interactive app is fully personalized to each patient based on a profile they complete prior to their procedure. The app then pushes essential information directly to patients including important pre-op instructions and educational videos related to their procedure and recovery. Once surgery has taken place, the app prompts patients to complete daily surveys that assess pain levels, weight gain, activity levels, and more. Patients can even take and share photos depicting their progress or even upload pictures of their healing wounds.

“Because the survey results are automatically pushed to the patient’s care team, we’re able to track their progress and intervene if something doesn’t seem right,” says Engelman. “Plus, the app includes 24-hour access to a health concierge who can answer questions.”

The app remains live for 30 days post-surgery and provides customized reminders related to when to stop medication, dietary changes, follow-up appointments, etc.

2. Televised Patient-Room Education Videos

While preparing for or recovering from surgery at Baystate, cardiac surgery patients can access on-demand educational videos on their in-room television. Available in English and Spanish, the videos address topics related to their procedure. In addition, each patient receives personalized medication information at 10 am and 8 pm including a list of prescribed medications, the purpose of each medication, potential side effects, precautions, and more.

“Again,” says Crisafi, “it’s important that patients understand every aspect of their treatment including why they’re taking certain medications today and may not be tomorrow. These televised prompts bring that information directly to patients and bridges any knowledge gaps that may exist.”

3. Opioid Reduction App

Cardiac surgery is associated with more chronic opioid users than any other surgical subspecialty, research shows. In an effort to quickly wean patients off of opioids post-surgery, Baystate Cardiac Surgeon Daniel Engelman and Nurse Coordinator Cheryl Crisafi have designed a novel Opioid Reduction app in collaboration with the Baystate Technology Innovation Center, TechSpring. This was customized and beta tested at Baystate by Cheryl Crisafi and Dr. Engelman.

They have also published their research in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, where they explain that “situational awareness” among the patient care team is a “vital first step in reducing opioid dependence after cardiac surgery.”

“In the past the aim was to eliminate all pain,” says Engelman. “However, the opioid crisis has revealed that the risk of persistent opioid use post-surgery is very real and can have tragic consequences. Our approach now involves multimodal pain control, meaning a bit of opioid very early that gets scaled back very quickly while other non-addictive medications are scaled up. The app allows us to track a patient’s pain level daily and the specific medication they are receiving. With this information we’re in a much better position to safely help them manage their pain throughout recovery without overutilization of opioids.”

Learn more about heart surgery at Baystate Health.

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