Secure text messaging and changes in patient outcomes

Opportunity

Suboptimal communication between health care professionals can lead to delays and errors in medical decision-making, increasing length of stay and readmissions for hospital patients. Secure text messaging technology can facilitate the delivery of medical information and provide a two-way exchange that improves the clinical workflow. 

Approach

We compared changes in inpatient length of stay and hospital readmission between medical units that adopted secure text messaging technology and medical units that did not. We controlled for patient and hospital characteristics, as well as time trends.

Impact

We found that the adoption of secure text messaging led to a 14 percent decrease in length of stay with no change in readmissions. The findings demonstrated that secure text messaging can improve care coordination. As a result of the findings, Penn Medicine expanded the use of this technology from two medical floors in one hospital to all medical and surgical floors in two hospitals.