Viewpoint: Why this surgeon emails patients' family members before surgery

Benjamin Schwartz, MD, a gynecological surgeon at Northwell Health's Southside Hospital in Bayshore, N.Y., implemented an additional step to standard preoperative protocols: He emails patients' loved ones to learn more about them before surgery.

"Our standard protocol had been to take a presurgical pause to prepare before a patient entered the operating room. … Following the pause, we apply our skills to the person lying before us — often without knowing who they really are," Dr. Schwartz, who also serves as Southside Hospital's chairman of obstetrics and gynecology, wrote in an op-ed for STAT.

Now, Dr. Schwartz and the surgical team take a moment to read emails from patients' family members immediately before their surgeries. In one case, he learned that a patient loved Pink Floyd, so Dr. Schwartz played one of the band's songs over the operating room's sound system to help relax the patient before surgery.

Dr. Schwartz said this process helps the surgical team create a human connection with patients that is often absent in modern medicine.

"We need to guard against dehumanization by learning about our patients' amazing, individual lives and the impact they have on so many others' lives, rather than knowing them only as 'the gallbladder in room 302,'" he wrote.

More articles on patient engagement:
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Allegheny Health Network posts physician ratings online
Familial support best way to engage patients in their health, survey shows


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