While text messaging started out as a fad among teenagers, today its widespread use has extended to breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
A recent study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that text messaging between the patient and surgeon led to faster recovery times. Women who exchanged texts with their surgeon made significantly fewer clinic visits and phone calls; texting also reduced the amount of time the post-surgical drain was needed.
The study, the first to show potential benefits of text messaging between surgeons and patients undergoing a specific procedure, included 102 women with similar characteristics who used comparable surgeons and techniques. One group participated in routine postoperative text messaging while the other did not.
“Consistent with the benefits of text messaging (ease of use, speed, simplicity), patients’ adherence to medical advice (monitoring and recording…drain output) improved in this study,” stated Dr. Roshni Rao of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. Some patients mentioned that being able to communicate with their surgeon via text helped them feel “empowered and an advocate for their own care.”
Yet despite its potential advantages, texting between doctors and patients has yet to catch on. Concerns include patient confidentiality as well as protecting the privacy of physicians and the amount of time involved in texting. Reimbursement is another potential area of question. In the study, patients used text messaging to send only the requested information during specified hours and messages only appeared on a password-protected cell phone.
Yet if routine postoperative text messages can help reduce unnecessary visits and quicken recovery, everyone wins. “The results of this exploratory study are intriguing and may provide a strategy for innovative communication between physicians and patients,” writes Dr. Rao and coauthors.
Photo: Texting at Comic-Con by kevin dooley on Flickr