Less than six months after a total knee replacement, a patient at Columbia Orthopedic Group golfed his best 18-hole game at his dream golf course in California.
Such speedy recoveries, Surgical Center Administrator Andrew Lovewell said, have become the expectation of patients who have opted in to use the center’s Force Therapeutics digital platform for post-operation care.
The group regularly performs joint surgeries with patients returning home the same day, and the technology serves as an efficient way for doctors to continue communication. The platform allows patients easy access to information prior to surgery and recommendations about how to care for themselves after returning home.
“It gives you access not only to that information at all times, but it also gives you a recovery pathway,” Lovewell said of the digital platform. “When you’re at home, you can be making progress on your own outside of going to a physical therapist or making a trip to the ER because you have questions.”
In preparation for surgery and after a patient returns home, the technology aids in retention of information, Lovewell said. According to research done by Brown University, only 49% of patients are able to recall information relayed by doctors without prompting.
In February, about 94% of Columbia Orthopedic Group surgical patients opted in to utilize the service, compared to about 82% last year, Lovewell said.
Older patients use the platform more than younger ones, he said, citing an anecdote of an 88-year-old woman who spoke highly of the platform and the money it saved her.
The technology is provided at no cost to the patient, increasing the number of patients willing to participate in the service.
Columbia Orthopedic Group implemented Force Therapeutics in June 2020, Lovewell said. There is no plan for the service to be removed.
While deciding to provide the service was not directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it allowed patients to feel safer and have more control over their post-operation therapy, as many were not comfortable being in close proximity to a physical therapist, or offices were closed for in-person services, he said.
“It can save a patient thousands of dollars in physical therapy costs,” Lovewell said.
Additional staff members have been hired since its implementation to aid in monitoring messages and data that patients put into the system.
When patients set up their portal, the platform asks them to set a goal. For example, the patient who went golfing in California had a goal of being able to walk pain-free by the time he went on his trip.
Then, each day, the patient is asked to monitor their symptoms and pain levels. Doctors are notified through the portal of what videos have been completed and the level of pain that a patient has been reporting.
“It also gives us a nice look into how you’re recovering because the whole time you’re using the platform, we have you filling out forms along your care journey to know how you’re doing,” Lovewell said.
“… It kind of reinforces accountability as well with the patients to where we can say, ‘We’re going to partner with you on this, but you also have to take an active role.'”
Patients are able to send HIPAA-compliant photos and video to accompany any questions for physicians.
Not only does the portal improve patient recovery times, Lovewell said, but it also gives doctors easy access to check on patients and adjust recommended care.
The technology has improved the doctor/patient relationship, Lovewell said.