Improving outpatient surgery with a mobile solution

Women’s College Hospital’s ambulatory clinics are outpatient, a model that’s beautifully suited to the proactive management of chronic illnesses. But even though ambulatory models keep patients out of emergency rooms, they don’t always eliminate the need for surgery.

Dr. John Semple, CBCF Chair in Surgical Breast Cancer Research,* performs breast reconstruction surgeries for women who’ve undergone cancer treatment. And he does it in an ambulatory setting at Women’s College Hospital.

“The ability to monitor a patient’s recovery after surgery is incredibly important,” says Semple.

“The challenge is, how do you notice infection right away if a patient has gone home?”

Until now, the answer has been to schedule frequent follow-up appointments. But if a patient is doing fine, a follow-up is a waste of her time, forces her to travel, and puts a strain on clinical resources. On the other hand, she may need immediate attention, yet still be forced to wait for her appointment to see her doctor.

It was a challenge that Semple and his team faced every day, and it inspired him to devise and pilot test an innovative solution. Working with a company called QoC Health (QoC stands for quality of care), Semple created a mobile app that allows him to assess post-surgical patients from their homes. Using a mobile device, patients provide Semple with photos of their incision and other vital information about their recovery process.

“Patients who are doing well get peace of mind, and for patients where there’s any doubt, a follow-up appointment is booked,” says Semple. “Right now we are just completing our initial pilot testing, but we believe it has enormous potential to reduce health-care costs and likely to shorten wait times for appointments.”

Once the results are analyzed, Semple plans to launch a second, larger study. Eventually, in partnership with QoC Health, he expects to commercialize the technology, making it available to health care organizations anywhere.

* CBCF is the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the longest-standing major supporter of scientists at Women’s College Research Institute

Dr. John Semple began his tenure as the CBCF Chair in Surgical Breast Cancer Research in March 2010. The surgeon-in-chief at Women’s College Hospital, he is also a senior scientist at WCRI and a professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto.