Feature May 12, 2021 John Bernot, MD

5 ways to enhance recovery after surgery success through patient activation

Patient activation is key to improving post-op task adherence with enhanced recovery protocols. Here are 5 ways to spur action.

Enhance recovery after knee surgery

Post-op task adherence can mean the difference between a successful knee or hip replacement and an unhappy patient with poor outcomes. 

Your carefully designed post-op care plans don’t matter if your patients don’t follow them or understand the value of your instructions.

Read on to learn more about enhanced recovery protocols and how you can coach patients to an optimal recovery. 

Why use enhanced recovery protocols?

Enhanced recovery protocols, such as ERAS®1 refers to the programs and protocols the surgical care team designs for the patient to achieve the best possible outcomes after surgery.

Patients who follow enhanced recovery protocols experience:

  • Better outcomes
  • Increased satisfaction
  • Fewer complications
  • Lower readmission rates

This is where the rubber meets the road. While the surgical care team knows what better outcomes means, do your patients? 

As you interact with your patients, you must communicate that following post-op tasks will:

  • Decrease pain and reliance on pain medications
  • Reduce the likelihood of infections 
  • Shorten recovery time so that they will feel better faster
  • Improve their quality of life and overall health

As patients better understand the value of following enhanced recovery protocols, you increase the likelihood of patient compliance. 

5 ways to spur patient activation

Patient activation is a patient’s willingness and adaptability to take independent actions to manage their health and care. 

To achieve the level of necessary action to positively impact outcomes and get your patients to follow your enhanced recovery protocols, you have to do more than prescribe behavior. Reimaging your relationship as one between a coach and player can help.

Here are five ways to coach patients on post-op task adherence for improved surgical outcomes:

  1. Offer clear-cut instructions. Don’t overwhelm your patients with too much information. Telling them what to do and when makes it easier to follow your guidance.  
  2. Share micro-lessons. Your patients may be avoiding some post-op tasks because they don’t know how to do them. Offering micro-lessons to train them on changing a bandage or cleaning an incision properly increases the likelihood they will do it correctly.  
  3. Connect the dots across the care continuum. Most patients don’t know that smoking reduces the body’s ability to heal. Help your patients understand why it’s critical to reduce smoking after surgery. Otherwise, your patient assumes it’s just another opportunity for a doctor to tell them to stop smoking.   
  4. Designate a family advocate. Your patients might not follow instructions because they need help. Ask them to identify a trusted family member or friend to assist them. 
  5. Make it easy for patients to access their post-op care plan. A single piece of paper can easily be misplaced. However, a text notification alerting them it’s time to clean their incision with a link to the micro-lesson is accessible when and where they need it. 

Help your post-op patients help themselves 

Patient post-op task adherence is necessary for optimal recovery after knee and hip replacement surgery. 

While the surgical care team can design the best enhanced recovery protocols, they won’t make an impact on outcomes if patients don’t follow them.  

Patient activation is key to helping them understand the benefits of following enhanced recovery protocols and a connected health solution might be what your practice needs to inspire action. 

Learn how a virtual perioperative assistant can spur patient activation for post-op task adherence that results in better patient outcomes. 

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Bravado Health


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  1. Enhanced Recovery After Surgery. American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.