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Plastic Surgery "Guinea Pigs" Show Care Coordination at its Finest

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 @ 07:30 AM


My field, of plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery, has always been one of innovation and even experimentation. So much of the innovation that has happened over the ages is innovation done with and for patients. Some people call these patients guinea pigs; some people call them pioneers; others simply call them valued patients.

Recently, an upcoming movie caught my attention. It's called “The Guinea Pig Club” and is the the story of Sir Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealander working in Britain in World War II who cared for the disfigured using classic plastic and reconstructive surgery techniques (read 4000 BC in India) as well as inventing and systematizing his own.

He worked at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, England. He was the student and cousin of Sir Harold Gilles. Dr. Gilles' seminal work was related to World War I. (Interestingly Dr. McIndoe was a teacher of my Chief of Plastic Surgery, Dr Peter Randall. The techniques and the care have certainly been passed on.) The name of the film is the name of a group of patients. To belong to the club, born in a pub, was The Guinea Pig Club. The membership requirement: have had a number of procedures performed by Dr Mcindole. A look at the dramatic pictures demonstrates the fact that a “number of procedures” could easily be counted in scores and hundreds. The club's members supported each other both during and after the war.

Dr. McIndoe's work brought up a number of really interesting lessons and insights for me, both as a surgeon and as a founder of ClickCare. I find the principles of total patient care (now called care coordination, care across the continuum, and care management) fascinating, inspiring, and satisfying.

True medical care has always been about care coordination, not just interventions. 

Collaboration and care coordination extend beyond the institution’s walls -- whether that is long term care, the hospital, or the doctor's office.

For instance, a particularly amazing (but, on reflection, maybe not surprising) aspect of Dr. McIndoe's work was his effort to ensure that each patient also had the work he needed to make a life. (See this video, starting at 49:55.) To me, that is care coordination down to the roots and what we are passionate about making happen for everyone, everywhere.

Care involves more than the patient.

Dr McIndole worked with the local community to teach and help them look past the physical defects. Because of these efforts, East Grinstead became “the town that didn’t stare”.

Support and community is the foundation of health. 

A crucial part of these patients' success was related to their "pub club" through which they provided each other support and understanding. A condition that could have isolated and dominated these men ended up being connective and being the basis for their growth and flourishing after the war.


We're proud to be part of the legacy of Dr. McIndoe -- both in his valuing of innovation, and in his holistic way of pioneering health for his patients. We applaud his efforts as well as those of his patients -- just as we applaud all of the pioneers and "guinea pigs" who innovate with iClickCare every day. 


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Tags: long term care, good medicine, care coordination

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