Soon, women recovering from breast reconstruction surgery may be able to follow up with physicians on their smartphones rather than traveling to the clinic. A recent study in JAMA Surgery found that using a telemedicine follow-up mobile app with a questionnaire and patient-provided photos resulted in less office visits and more satisfied and engaged patients with no significant difference in complication rates when compared to patients with in-office visits.
Follow-up visits for breast reconstruction surgery are a good fit for telemedicine because the procedure has low complication rates and is performed on an ambulatory basis. As a result, the follow-up visits have become “perfunctory”, according to the researchers. And since surgical programs have become regionalized, more patients are traveling longer distances to receive care.
Thus, using telemedicine for follow-ups reduces the time and jostling of travel, giving patients a more comfortable recovery. In addition, the mobile app encourages patients to email their doctors, resulting in more communication between the patients and physicians.
The researchers caution against using telemedicine for all surgical follow-ups, citing the low risk of this particular procedure and the patients’ comfort level with using smartphones. They also did not explore the impact of telemedicine on the workload of clinicians. However, they feel optimistic about using this method for postoperative follow-ups in appropriate settings.