Pre-surgery coaching can reduce cost, length of stay

Running a marathon takes weeks of preparation of the mind and body—and researchers are investigating a similar approach, if less intense, to patients before surgery. A study, published by Surgery, found that basic wellness and fitness coaching can cut costs and the patient's length of stay.

The study examined the effectiveness of the Michigan Surgical and Health Optimization Program (MSHOP), a program focused on mentally and physically strengthening the patient before surgery, in saving hospitals money and shortening a patient’s stay.

"We do a lot in medicine to get people ready for surgery, but they're primarily administrative tasks—checking off boxes that don't necessarily make a patient better," said Michael Englesbe, MD, a University of Michigan transplant surgeon. "The more you can do to manage your status preoperatively, the quicker you'll be able to bounce back."

Conducted by Englesbe and Stewart Wang, MD, PhD, the program included daily automated phone reminders to improve diet, reduce stress and engage in breathing exercises and physical activity. A total of 641 patients underwent surgeries including liver, gastrointestinal, pancreas, thoracic, organ transplants and an esophageal resection.

Results found that those who participated in MSHOP to cut their hospital length of stay from an average of seven days to five and cut costs by 30 percent.

"Patients don't care about costs or how long they're going to be in the hospital. They just want to get through the experience," said Englesbe. "This is an empowering tool that helps them do something positive in the face of a very negative event. Once it's a billable service, it will really take off.”