Telehealth system at Cox Health supports opioid education effort

A program at CoxHealth to educate patients and families on opioids has resulted in an 8 percent increase in patient satisfaction scores.

A program at CoxHealth to educate patients and families on opioids has resulted in an 8 percent increase in patient satisfaction scores.

The initiative is helping the six-hospital system provide better information to those it serves on the appropriate use of opioids and their role in pain management, as well as the risks of misuse.

In late 2017, the Springfield, Mo.-based delivery system formed a task force of pharmacists, surgeons, patient educators, staff development nurses, public relations personnel and hospital administrators to develop a strategy to address opioid misuse.

Many patients facing surgery are concerned about taking opioids—in fact, 20 percent of Cox Health surgical patients are initiating discussions about using opioids for pain management, says Tina Tarter-Hamlet, the system’s patient education coordinator.

The CoxHealth program includes standardized patient communication processes and the creation of patient education videos to be viewed via the televisions, from Telehealth Services, in hospital rooms.

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The interactive TV generates patient activity reports for staff, enabling them to review and measure learning and patient comprehension to determine if additional education is needed, says Tarter-Hamlet. Nurses also are trained on the use of flowcharts to guide them to identify optimal times for patient education.

Documentation of the education is automatically entered into patients’ electronic health records and can be accessed post-discharge to reinforce the need of the patient to adhere to the medication plan and follow-up care plans.

The opioid program initially focuses on patients scheduled for surgery. Because these patients typically experience pain after procedures, nurses start working with patients to educate them on a realistic expectation for pain—for example, they communicate that a patient will be uncomfortable after a procedure, but the use of an opioid to manage pain does not mean they will become addicted to painkillers.

“We start the pain education in the surgeon’s office, use videos during the preadmission stage and use more videos after the procedure,” Tarter-Hamlet says. More than 800 educational videos are available, and nurses use their desktop or tablet computers to order appropriate videos.

Nurses have found that a good time for showing videos is while patients are eating breakfast. “It’s a really good way to educate our patients because a lot of people learn visually, and it’s a time-saver for nurses who can come back when the video is done and answer any questions,” Tarter-Hamlet explains.

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