A mobile app reduced the need for “in-person” visits to a doctor following breast reconstructive surgery without “affecting complication rates or patient satisfaction,” new research in the journal JAMA Surgery shows.
The study gives momentum to the effort to use digital health technology to offer more patient-centric care that can also potentially reduce unnecessary visits to a doctor’s office and therefore cut costs.
Dr. John Semple and colleagues from Women’s College Hospital, the University of Toronto, randomly assigned 65 women undergoing breast reconstruction to have follow-up care conducted by in-person visit or using a mobile app that allowed patients to submit photos or questions via web portal. The app in this study, sold by QoC Health, also allowed surgeons to submit follow up reports for patients by e-mail.
“They demonstrated a reduction in patient follow-up visits among the group using the mobile app, without affecting complication rates or patient satisfaction,” doctors not involved in the study said in a separate commentary in JAMA Surgery.
Patients using the mobile app attended “0.4 times fewer” visits for in-person follow-up care and sent their healthcare providers more e-mails during the month after surgery than the “in-person” follow-up group, study authors wrote.
The use of mobile apps in follow-up care could hold promise as health insurance companies move from fee-for-service medicine to paying doctors and hospitals via value-based models. Increasingly, insurers like , , , , Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans and the Medicare program are moving to value-based payment models like bundled payments that pay a predetermined fee that includes the surgery and the post-operative care.
Use of apps could reduce spending and be helpful to keeping costs within the bundled fee. “The biggest cost savings in bundled care is early discharge and keeping people out of hospitals,” Semple said in an interview.