June 23, 2017

Patient Satisfaction After Plastic Surgery Enhanced by Smartphone Contact

“Selfies” help ease patients’ minds

17-PSX-875-Zins-Hero-Image-650x450pxl

After cosmetic surgery, patients may worry until their follow-up visit if their wounds are healing properly. That common clinical dilemma led James Zins, MD, Chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic, to come up with the idea of using smartphones to enhance communication.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“I was already calling my cosmetic surgery patients several days after surgery to make sure all was going well,” he says, “but I thought it would be even more helpful to have them send me a picture within two to three days after surgery so I could assess their results visually.” He notes that significant problems after cosmetic surgery are not subtle and can be detected readily on a smartphone “selfie.”

A new protocol is born

From August 2015 to March 2016, Dr. Zins established a postoperative protocol whereby at the time of discharge he sent a text from his Cleveland Clinic smartphone to patients who had undergone cosmetic surgery.

The text instructed them to forward within 48 to 72 hours a postoperative photograph of the area that had been operated on. Once he received the smartphone photograph, he reviewed the image and responded by text or phone call that same day. He enrolled 52 consecutive patients, and 50 of them (96.2 percent) reported on a postoperative survey that the smartphone contact had improved the quality of their care.

“The smartphone photo and dialogue with the patient following review of the photo allowed me to reassure the patient that all was well,” he says. “On the other hand, if a problem was evident, it could be immediately addressed.”

Advertisement

A worthy adjunct to care

Although he had postulated that the protocol would allow him to identify early complications, he was only able to do so in three patients (5.8 percent). In addition, these complications were not identified within the 48- to 72-hour window nor by the time of the postoperative office visit, but rather on subsequent photographs patients were able to send to him.

“Although the protocol didn’t pick up complications before the follow-up visit, it did allow patients to send me pictures one to two weeks later if they were concerned about wound healing,” he says.

Dr. Zins points out that the smartphone photos and texts did not replace the follow-up visit in person, an important distinction from other telemedicine studies. “Research suggests patients do not like to use telemedicine if it replaces an office visit, but this was an adjunct interaction that was able to allay worries until the regularly scheduled postsurgical visit.”

Drawbacks to the protocol are that the photographs sent from the patient’s phone are not confidential and protected under HIPAA rules, and that it creates more work for the physician. “The surgeon could pass off the work to a mid-level provider, but then he or she would lose the power of personal communication between the physician and patient,” he notes. There is also potential for patient abuse of having the surgeon’s professional smartphone number, but Dr. Zins feels the benefits of the protocol outweigh the drawbacks.

Advertisement

“This is a very important issue and points to an opportunity to bring patients and physicians closer together and improve the quality of care,” he concludes.

Results of Dr. Zins’ study will shortly be published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

Related Articles

Bilateral rhytidectomy with extended SMAS and fat injections to the cheeks, peroperative and postoperative photos
November 15, 2019
How Postop Selfies Are Improving Patient Experience

Surgeon requests photos for early follow-up after cosmetic surgery

17-RHE-1225-Chatterjee-Hero-Image-650x450pxl
June 19, 2018
Diagnostic Approaches to Malignancy-Associated Dermatomyositis

A case-control study of Cleveland Clinic patients

Gottrons papules
June 14, 2018
Intravenous Immunoglobulin an Effective Treatment for Refractory Cutaneous Dermatomyositis

IVIG a viable alternative to immunosuppressants

17-PSX-4050-Zins-Hero-Image_650x450pxl
August 14, 2017
New Study Suggests Older Age Is Not an Impediment to Abdominoplasty

Findings reported in Aesthetic Surgery Journal

petaloid dermatoses
December 14, 2023
Case: Petaloid Dermatosis Affecting the Scalp and Genitalia

Consider secondary syphilis in the differential of annular lesions

mpox
December 11, 2023
Case Study: Mpox in Patient on HIV Regimen

Persistent rectal pain leads to diffuse pustules

Facial feminization surgery techniques for transgender women
May 31, 2023
Facial Feminization Surgery Improves Quality of Life in Transgender Women

Techniques are borrowed from rhinoplasty, malar augmentation and others

Nasal examination
April 28, 2023
Case Studies: The Challenges of Nasal Reconstruction

Two cases — both tremendously different in their level of complexity — illustrate the core principles of nasal reconstruction

Ad