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Online Patient-Reported Reviews of Mohs Micrographic Surgery: Qualitative Analysis of Positive and Negative Experiences

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The overall satisfaction with MMS (89%) was one of the highest for any procedure on this online patient review site, albeit based on fewer reviews compared to other common aesthetic surgical procedures. In comparison, 78% of 13,500 reviewers rated breast augmentation as “worth it,” while 60% of 6800 reviewers rated rhinoplasty as “worth it” (as of December 2015). Overall, the online patient reviews evaluated in this study were consistent with a previously published structured data report on patient satisfaction with MMS.6

The results show a greater than expected proportion of both the MMS excision and closure being performed by plastic surgeons compared to dermatologists. In reality, the majority of MMS excisions are performed by dermatologists. Based on a survey of American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMS) members, only 6% of procedures were sent to other specialties for closure.7 Our results may reflect reporting bias or patients misconstruing true MMS with an excision and standard frozen sections, techniques that have lower cure rates. If so, there may be a need to educate patients regarding the specifics of MMS. Other possible explanations for the discrepancy between the online patient reviews and ACMS data include misinterpretation by patients on the exact definition of MMS or that a higher than expected number of procedures were performed by non-ACMS Mohs surgeons.

Our qualitative analysis revealed that patients most frequently commented on the interpersonal skills of their surgeons (eg, bedside manner, communication) as positive themes during MMS, similar to prior analyses of general dermatology practices.3 In comparison to a recent study assessing patient satisfaction with rhinoplasty on RealSelf, the final appearance of the nose represented the most common positive- and negative-cited theme.8 Mohs micrographic surgery procedures typically are done under local anesthesia, which may explain the greater importance of bedside manner and communication intraoperatively in comparison to final surgical outcomes for patient satisfaction. For negative themes, 3 of 4 most common concerns were directly related to the intraoperative and postoperative periods. Providers may be able to improve patient satisfaction by explaining the postoperative course, such as healing time and temporary physical restrictions, as well as possible sequelae in greater detail, which may be particularly pertinent for MMS involving the nose or near the eyes.

The global ratings for MMS are high, as shown in our data set of patient reviews; however, patient reviews are highly susceptible to reporting bias, recall bias, and missing information. Prior work using this online patient review website to investigate laser and light procedures also demonstrated the risk for imperfect information associated with patient reviews.9 Even so, the data does provide a glimpse into what is considered important to patients. Surgeon interpersonal skills and communication were the most frequently cited positive themes for MMS. The best surgical aspects of MMS focused on the unique tissue-sparing nature of the procedure and the removal of a cancerous lesion. Potential areas for improvement include a more thorough explanation of the intraoperative and postoperative process, specifically potential asymmetry related to the nose or the eyes, healing time, and scarring. These patient reviews underscore the importance of setting appropriate patient expectations. As patients become more connected and utilize online platforms to report their experiences, Mohs surgeons can take insights derived from online patient reviews for their own practice or geographic area to improve satisfaction and manage expectations.

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