Surgeons: Trust and Communication

Jul 1, 2020 10:04:18 AM / by Joy Youell

Surgery is an unknown that generates fear in many patients. Even routine procedures, such as wisdom teeth or appendix removals, can elicit anxiety. This is why it is so important for surgeons to establish trust and openly communicate with their patients. Surgeons are responsible for clear communication with patients. The onus is often on them to convey details on the procedure and recovery process. It is also important for surgeons to be an advocate for their patients. There are apps and other technology that can help with all of these tasks. 

Continue reading to learn more about surgeons can establish better trust and communication with patients and their families. 

Surgeon-Patient Relationship

Establishing trust with patients not only makes them feel better, it also helps surgeons perform their jobs well. Surgeries are invasive and sometimes dangerous. Patients may be putting their lives at risk by undergoing operations. A communicative and trusting relationship goes a long way.

According to a study by the Jama Network, there is a spectrum of how surgeons interact with their patients about possible surgeries. At one end of the spectrum are surgeons who dominate the conversation by telling patients what to do. At the other end are surgeons who provide many options and work collaboratively with patients. 

The study suggests that the ideal interaction includes a discussion about the best medical option with alternatives. This discussion should also include recovery and post-surgery life. Above all, this conversation should fit within the personal context of the patient. By providing patients with the best course of treatment and also the option to try something else, medical caregivers establish a trusting and open patient-surgeon relationship.

Surgeon-Family Relationship

A surgeon is not only responsible for addressing the patient, but also their family. Because surgery can be life-threatening and stress-inducing, families are often involved and waiting. When it comes to pediatric surgery, a surgeon will need the informed consent of a patient’s guardian. Sometimes, the surgeon-family relationship can be more difficult than the surgeon-patient relationship. This is because family members are more likely to advocate for the patient. All stakeholders, including a patient's family, should have trust in a surgeon. Here are a couple of ways surgeons can establish trust and ensure open communication between themselves and a patient’s family:

  • Include the patient's family in discussions about the procedure and recovery process.
  • Create open communication with the patients family by inviting them to directly contact with any questions.
  • Inform the family on how they can be helpful before, during and after the surgery.

Surgeons as Patient Advocates

When it comes to a patient, surgeons of course want to provide the best care possible. Especially in the case of pediatric candidates or patients who have medical guardians, surgeons will have to be an advocate for their patients. Sometimes, families and medical guardians believe they know what is best for a patient. This can lead to conflict between surgeons and patients' families. If the families have extremely high anxiety about the surgery or they feel it is unnecessary, there are ways to respectfully inform about surgery and alleviate fears. Here is how surgeons can effectively advocate:

  • Inform the patient and their families how quality of life may improve with surgery.
  • Explain the benefits and risks of surgery.
  • Provide resources about recovery and explain that the patient and their families are not alone during the process. 
  • Provide viable alternatives so that the patient can receive some sort of care.

Ultimately, it is up to their patient or their medical guardian as to whether they want surgery or not. Though this may be true, surgeons can impact this decision by informing, building trust, communicating and alleviating fears. 

New Technology for Messaging During Surgery

Lately, new technology is available for app-based communication during surgery. Apps like these make communication more efficient. They also make the waiting process easier for family members. 

  • In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mercy Medical Center is using one of these apps to update loved ones on operations. These updates can include when the patient enters the operating room, when the procedure has begun and when the procedure is over. Mercy Medical Center uses this type of technology to alleviate anxiety and build trust. Staff at Mercy explain that all it takes for staff to send these messages is the push of a button. 
  • Some surgeons, like Dr. David Koronkiewicz, use these apps to send updates during surgery as well as to continue open communication post-surgery. Patients can text Dr. Koronkiewicz with questions, prescription refill requests and information on helpful resources. Knowing that their doctor is one text message away provides peace of mind and empowers the patient to take charge of their health. Through fine-tuning, this system will allow non-physician medical staff to answer questions that do not require the surgeon’s input. This technology is transforming surgery for patients and their families by alleviating anxieties and creating open communication.

Surgeon App

If you are looking for a great surgery app to communicate with your patients' loved ones, check out DocClocker’s DOC-OR. This HIPAA compliant communication platform gives waiting families updates throughout the surgery. By streamlining the communication process, staff can focus on providing the highest quality of care to the patient. This surgeon app allows multiple people to receive updates and communicate with each other on one chat. 


Read more about DOC-OR here

Tags: Digital healthcare, Healthcare app, Doctor app, Apps for doctor visits, Digital medical, doctor patient relationship, patient communication

Joy Youell

Written by Joy Youell

Joy Youell writes about IT healthcare, digital medical innovations and improving patient experiences for DocClocker.