Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2023 Oct 16;11(10):e5346. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000005346. eCollection 2023 Oct.
BACKGROUND: There is a growing societal trend in plastic surgery patients of viewing their medical care as a commodity product rather than as a healthcare service. Our four-provider private plastic surgery practice noticed this phenomenon through our patients’ trend of overusing the emergency after-hours service call line. To affect this behavior, we designed a study educating patients on the emergency service call line’s purpose and how to handle nonurgent issues independently.
METHODS: After a 6-month preintervention phase to categorize after-hours emergency calls, We improved preoperative patient education and implemented in-office protocols for quicker provider responses. Postintervention data were collected for another 6 months and compared statistically with the preintervention data.
RESULTS: In the preinterventional period, we saw a total of 236 after-hours phone calls. The intervention led to a 22% significant reduction in total calls (P = 0.007). Calls were categorized as nonurgent, urgent, and emergent. While emergent calls remained unchanged (P = 0.56), nonurgent calls significantly decreased (P = 0.005). The most common nonurgent calls were regarding pain, routine postoperative concerns, and drain care, with the intervention resulting in a significant reduction of routine postoperative swelling/bruising/discomfort calls (P = 0.04) but not changing pain (P = 0.23) or drain-related calls (P = 0.78).
CONCLUSIONS: We found that targeted preoperative patient education coupled with a real-time action board in the office, to ensure timely response to patient questions during office hours, can positively impact after-hours call use, and improve overall patient outcomes by catching urgent issues earlier.