Seconds Matter: A Pearl for Improving Communication During Surgery


Presenters highlight the possible solutions to communication between the scrubbed-in surgery team and outside help that could save time.

Whether it be avoiding infection at the surgical site, or a chance for a patient to bleed out, there is no question that seconds matter during any surgical procedure.

At the American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMS) 54th annual meeting being held this week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a group of researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, presented a pearl that is designed to help surgeons save those precious seconds during Mohs surgery. The technique that was discussed has applicability to many types of surgical procedures.

Latrice Hogue, MD, set up her presentation with a common problem faced by Mohs surgeons: “You are scrubbed in and need to request assistance—more suture, etc.—from team members who are outside of the room, what do you do?”

Hogue and colleagues noted that many Mohs surgical suites are not equipped with buzzers/buttons to call for assistance, and that often in these scenarios, other people in the room are usually scrubbed in as well and would have to scrub out, which leads to a potential wasting of resources, for example, staff time, and also the risk of contamination of having that person leaving the room. And of course, there is also the potential of lost time, which could lead to a delay in surgical procedure to stop and locate assistance.

To address this potential problem, the Emory team tried out an innovative solution, which is to initiate the “walkie talkie” feature on their digital watch, pull sterile gloves over their digital watch prior to the surgery, and then be empowered to communicate to their teams through this push-to-talk technology.

This has proven a useful tool for their team, Hogue explained, as most team members have these digital watches, just like most of the world.

“Digital watches are currently used by over 100 million people worldwide,” Hogue said, quoting an article from

The push-to-talk feature on these phones allows the surgeon to communicate via one tap and an immediate voice message to the recipient, and the range for the technology includes anywhere an internet connection is available.

From apps that are designed to prepare patients for their surgeries, to headset use by surgeons in the operating theatre during procedures, technology hacks like the ones offered from Emory are quickly changing the way that patients are treated, and ultimately, helping surgeons perform their jobs in a more timely and safer way.

Originally published on Dermatology Times.


Hogue L, Lim J, Blalock T, Team communication tool during Mohs surgery. Presented at: American College of Mohs Surgery. Held May 12-15, 2022. Philadelphia, PA.

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