Using smartphones for early postoperative follow-up improved patient perceptions of the postoperative experience and even helped to detect a few early complications, according to a new study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.
Researchers studied the use of a smartphone-based cosmetic surgery postoperative follow-up protocol, in which 57 plastic surgery patients sent their surgeons smartphone pictures of their surgical sites within 48 to 72 hours postsurgery. Plastic surgeons texted their patients at discharge, with instructions for how and when to forward a postoperative pictures. Surgeons then responded to patients the day they sent the photos to review postop progress. Patients recorded their thoughts in a questionnaire evaluating their experience and satisfaction with the program, according to the study.
The authors report that of the 52 patients who responded to the survey, 50 (96.2%) indicated the protocol improved the quality of their postoperative care experience. The process also alerted surgeons to three cases with early complications.
The study’s senior author James E. Zins, M.D., chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Plastic Surgery, tells The Aesthetic Channel that he uses the selfie program for virtually all of his postoperative cosmetic surgery procedures.
“While I perform predominantly facial aesthetics surgery, I have also used the program for patients undergoing breast and body contouring surgery,” Dr. Zins says. “Since problems following facial surgery are generally quite obvious and not subtle, photographs taken by the patients, themselves, invariably are sufficient to detect early postoperative problems. However, should there be any question regarding the possibility of an early postoperative problem then the patient is seen expeditiously.”
Dr. Zins and colleagues have the most experience using the protocol after facial aesthetic procedures, including facelift, blepharoplasty, brow lift and submental liposuction.
“When certain body contouring procedures are performed, the need for a second person to take the photographs is often in order,” he says.
While a helpful adjunct in postoperative care, the selfie program never takes the place of an actual postoperative visit, according to Dr. Zins.
“The point of the selfie program is to make contact with the patient earlier than the usual follow-up visit — that is within two to three days,” he says. “This is done for two reasons. One, to reassure the patient and allay any fears regarding early postoperative problems. And two, to possibly recognize problems early before they become more significant.”
The Selfie Protocol
The protocol is easy to follow. Dr. Zins says that patients routinely receive instructions when they’re discharged from the ambulatory surgery center.
“At that time, I send them a text with my cell phone number included and ask them to send me a selfie at 48 to 72 hours. I've promised them a prompt return phone call after assessing the photograph,” he says. “I ask each patient to send me a close up front view and both a right and a left lateral view. Photographs taken by the iPhone have been consistently of high quality to determine that the postoperative course has been satisfactory.”
While the first selfie contact in the study did not pick up any early postoperative problems, patients continued to use the system to contact Dr. Zins at later times, which did reveal several postoperative problems the plastic surgeon quickly addressed, he says.
Disclosure: Dr. Zins reports no relevant disclosures.