health care

ER patients prefer technology-based interventions

Posted 7/23/12

PROVIDENCE – A survey of urban emergency department patients 13 and older has found that they prefer technology-base interventions – text messaging, email or Internet – for high-risk behaviors such as alcohol use, unsafe sex and violence, according to a new study led by Dr. Megan L. Ranney, a researcher at Rhode Island Hospital.

The survey of 973 patients, now available online at the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that patients preferred a technology-based intervention irrespective of age, sex, income, race and ethnicity.

“Many of our ER patients report behaviors that put them at high risk for poor health, like cigarette smoking, alcohol use and being a victim of violence,” said Ranney, the lead researcher on the study. “Although emergency medicine physicians care about these problems, we face many barriers to helping patients change risky behaviors. Some of these barriers include lack of time in a busy, Level I, urban emergency department; lack of training in providing effective behavioral interventions; and a lack of knowledge of appropriate follow-up resources in an emergency setting.”

The study findings indicate that technology-based interventions are an attractive potential solution to these barriers as most ER patients regularly use multiple forms of technology, including cell phones and the Internet. It also shows that the patients surveyed are receptive to technology-based interventions for these problems.

Patients self-administered the survey on an iPad or on paper. Only 36 of the 973 patients surveyed preferred the paper questionnaire.

Computer or cell phone-based interventions for ER patients offer many advantages, according to the study. Such interventions could provide consistent quality and content, would not require individual doctors and nurses to have expertise in the area and could be tailored to the needs and desires of each patient. Technology-based interventions also can be delivered post-discharge, providing patients with a more convenient, private and anonymous resource.

“The data show that technology-based behavioral interventions will play an increasing role in the continuing care of emergency department patients,” Ranney said. “While more than two-thirds of the patients in our emergency department use some form of technology regularly, the use of such technologies for clinical practice lags behind this trend.”

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