As a surgeon who has been practicing for more than 20 years, I have had a front row seat to both positive and negative changes that have taken place in our evolving medical field. As a community hand surgeon who values many of the recent advances in hand surgery, there is one piece of tried-and-true advice that I still find helpful in my practice to this day: Remove your own sutures.
Removing sutures is a critical touchpoint with your patient who has just allowed you the privilege of operating on them. This is a valuable opportunity to observe the effects of your recent surgical procedure and, most importantly, to connect with your patient. The encounter lets patients know that you are concerned about their outcome. Imagine telling someone that you are not going to see them after surgery for 91 days (just outside global), or, perhaps, never after a procedure.
Many patients eagerly await their first post-operative visit as they do not remember the details from the discussion in the recovery room. Often, second-opinion patients present with complaints that they rarely saw their first surgeon. Some complain that they were booked for surgery by a mid-level provider, then after surgery all subsequent visits were with a same or different mid-level provider.
Face-to-face communication with your patient is vital. Removing your own sutures is an excellent opportunity to ensure your patient is getting the care and attention they deserve.
I realize that a surgeon does not collect RVUs or extra dollars for office visits during the global period. Some may even view it as a “waste of valuable time” since someone else can do it while you’re evaluating a new patient. I think of this time as a chance to talk with my patient while providing excellent patient care, avoiding post-operative complications (most commonly swelling and stiffness), and reiterating recovery instructions and expectations. This visit fosters communication between the patient and surgeon team and sets expectations that guide the treatment pathway.
In the long run, I believe it is an oversight to not make time for this important visit. To see your patients, touch them, and speak with them helps them to experience your compassion, and encourages them to spread the word about their experience, which will help to build your practice. Removing your own sutures is in essence “marketing.” Patients want the physical touch and are eager to spend time with their surgeon, especially in the new world of EMR.
Jay Talsania is an orthopedic surgeon. This article originally appeared in ASSH Perspectives.
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