As we speak, healthcare is undergoing a paradigm shift driven by technological and scientific advancements. These breakthroughs, like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, are leading to faster disease detection and to disease-specific therapies and it’s changing the way doctors go about planning and approaching treatment. We’re practically living with medical care straight out of Star Trek.
There’s one large aspect of healthcare that’s being left in the dark ages, though. It’s what happens after the patient is sent home.
In the past, after-care consisted of a list of medications and potential side effects, along with limited treatment-management instructions. Postoperative care has virtually stayed the same, causing revision rates to remain high, despite the many advances across the healthcare industry.
Take breast reconstruction. Generally, this procedure happens after a mastectomy to treat or prevent breast cancer. By this time, patients’ bodies have already experienced significant trauma and losing one’s breasts can be a very personal and emotional ordeal. And yet, 40% of those patients - without complications - will undergo an average of two revision surgeries to get a satisfactory outcome. If complications do occur, that number of procedures grows to three or even four. More surgeries means more physical, and often emotional, stress to the patient.
Breast reconstruction isn’t the only procedure with high revision rates, either. One study found that 23% of gender-affirming vaginoplasties need revision. Rhinoplasty revision rates have been reported as high as 20%. From facial reconstruction to total knee replacement, nearly every surgery requires physician follow-up and patient updates.
Of course, the more anatomically complex or the more visible the surgical site, the higher the revision rate.But with the biotechnological advances in healthcare that we have at our disposal today, those numbers don’t need to be so high.
The answer to lowering those rates lies in postoperative care and monitoring.
Depending on the type of surgery and the individual patient’s recovery process, the general timeline of postoperative care goes something like this: the patient receives immediate aftercare in the hospital or surgical facility; they head home with instructions for homecare, which varies based on the procedure and the doctor; then they schedule subsequent follow-up appointments, traditionally at the 1-week, 1-month, 6-month, and 1-year markers. Add in a 3-month appointment, too, for some doctors, and that’s a total of five follow-up appointments within the first year of surgery, assuming there aren’t any complications.
This becomes a problem when patients aren’t able to comply with this standard of aftercare.The inability to make these in-person appointments can negatively affect their recovery and increase the likelihood of needing revision surgery. With advancements in remote monitoring technology, though, more frequent updates and increased contact between physician and patient can be made, without the burden of traveling to the doctor's office.
Increased monitoring facilitates optimal results in several ways. First, it allows for early detection of any potential complications. For head/neck surgeries - which are inherently complex procedures due to the anatomy affected - are susceptible to complications like swelling, hematoma, infection, and poor scarring. By taking advantage of remote monitoring, doctors can promptly identify any potential complications and address them with a higher success rate and little impact on the patient’s recovery process.
Second, remote monitoring provides the opportunity to provide more individualized treatment plans. What works for one patient may not necessarily work for the next, after all. One may have a low pain tolerance, follow their aftercare plan exactly, and be healing relatively slowly; while another has a high pain tolerance, uses their aftercare instructions as more of a guideline, and still be healing quickly. Both patients require completely different approaches to their care, and remote monitoring provides a path for crafting unique plans for patients without hassle.
Another added benefit is a higher frequency of touch-points that can reinforce aftercare compliance and educate patients on their care, along with addressing any concerns or answering questions that arise during the healing process.
Patient education is actually very important when it comes to promoting successful outcomes. It empowers the patient to take an active role in their recovery and be more conscious of postoperative instructions, which leads to better results.
Better results lead to lower revision rates. We hope that fewer breast reconstruction patients will have to endure multiple surgeries to restore their body. We hope that the rhinoplasty rate will lean closer to 5% than to 20%. We want to see the burden of complex craniofacial cases affecting pediatric patients and their families reduced.
Lower revision rates means less physical, emotional, and mental stress the patient has to experience. What physician doesn’t want that for their patient?
The question becomes, how do you incorporate remote monitoring into your practice?
That’s where MirrorMe comes in. MirrorMe makes remote monitoring easier and more beneficial for both the physician and patient by offering several user-friendly features, such as increased communication with patients and mobile scanning from home, virtually eliminating the need for numerous in-office post-op visits. That means that physicians can still check in on patients, especially those who may be located further away from the office or unable to attend all the necessary postoperative appointments.
Doctors can communicate directly with patients, monitor patient progress, and address any concerns quickly and efficiently. For example, patients can express their issues with healing and pain management. Another patient can be reminded of the importance of following aftercare instructions if a physician notices wound progression is deteriorating.
Ultimately, the enhanced communication of remote monitoring helps patients feel supported and engaged in their recovery while enabling physicians to assess healing progress, detect any complications, and provide guidance without patients needing to travel to the clinic.
Of course, remote monitoring is one piece of the whole puzzle of accelerating value-based care, advancing efficiency in hospitals, and increasing convenience and outreach with patients. It is an industry-changing tool that will carry surgical after-care into the twenty-first century.
Remote care and monitoring cannot continue to be overlooked as an important part of the treatment process, nor can it continue to be underutilized when working to achieve optimal outcomes, especially in cases that require particular attention due to complexity and visibility.
We have the scientific and technological advances and tools to make it happen, so let’s start using them.