Think about when someone close to you was undergoing a surgical procedure, and you were concerned, or downright worried, about how they were doing. The hours passed and you were left waiting and wondering, hoping someone would fill you in soon.

This is Dr. Andrew Salzberg. Patient support and communications is very important to the surgeons and staff at the New York Group for Plastic Surgery. To help reassure family and friends and keep them in the loop as much as possible during surgery, we offer our reconstructive and plastic surgery patients the use of a free digital service called MDConnectME.

Here’s how MDConnectME works: In advance of the surgery date, our patient opts in to receive a digital invitation fr om MDConnectME, asking for a list of cell phone numbers for designated family and friends. This list can include people who will be in the waiting room during surgery, and also those who are nearby, across the country or even around the world.

Right before, during and after the procedure, our surgical staff uses a cell phone or iPad to text real-time updates to the patient’s family and friends. We are not typing new texts, but choosing from an easily accessed, existing list of message options that provide status alerts. So for example, family and friends might receive periodic texts that say: “[Rachel] is being evaluated by anesthesia” or “[Rachel] is going into surgery” or “[Rachel] is in recovery,” and so on.

For a surgery of more than one hour in particular, this method of simple communication can be extremely reassuring. It can allow a husband, wife or parent to leave the waiting room for a meal or a walk without missing an important surgical update. Or, family or loved ones anywhere can be quickly notified to meet up with the surgeon.

The feedback we’ve received has been very positive, with patients happy that their families know wh ere they are in the surgical process. Family members have said they feel more at ease and reassured when they received the updates, and the broader distribution list relieved some of the burden on them to provide multiple updates to concerned family and friends.

What do you think about updates for surgical patients’ families? Have there been times you wish you could have been updated?