New community-based program promotes faster recovery for elective surgical patients

Central Adelaide will launch an innovative community-based program aimed at enhancing the post-operative recovery of surgical patients in early 2022.

The surgical “prehabilitation” program, known as Pre-Hab, will screen patients for manageable risk factors and guide them to take simple steps to optimise their health before surgery, in collaboration with their GPs. It aims to decrease complications which can delay or impair their recovery.

Central Adelaide LHN Surgical Lead, Professor Jane Andrews said the project is about improving surgical outcomes for patients by starting their preparation for surgery as soon as they are referred to a surgeon rather than waiting to their actual appointment,” Professor Andrews said.

“We will be in contact with patients and provide them with tailored health advice so individuals can take control of their own health to ensure that when they see the surgeon and prepare for surgery they are as well as they can be.”

She said one in five people experience post-operative complications, predominantly those who were elderly or with co-morbidities – and many of these complications can be prevented with simple PreHab interventions.

“The aim is to have patients link in with their surgical team and their GP, to identify and address risk factors such as smoking, weight, frailty and poor nutrition as this will help to lower the risk of complications and reduce their stay in hospital.”

The Pre-Hab pilot program is being co-designed by a multi-profession working group including recent CALHN surgical consumers and local GPs, Professor Andrews said.

“In the first six months we will get the project up and running, then obtain consumer feedback from both our patient and GP consumers, use the feedback to make any necessary improvements and then broaden it across other areas.”

She hoped the project would result in patients feeling more empowered ahead of surgery.

“We may also have situations where a patient may no longer require surgery if they have made significant health improvements,” Professor Andrews said.

“As well as being safer for patients and ensuring they have a better outcome, we can also potentially save hundreds of bed days a year, which will allow more operations to be delivered to people waiting – so a double gain.

“With elective surgery, most people stay a short time, however for patients who experience complications, they stay a longer time, which is not what anyone wants.”

Professor Andrews said the Pre-Hab project had received positive feedback from GPs attending a recent clinical engagement session.

An attendee at the session, a GP liaison, said it would improve the flow of information between GPs and surgical teams.

“I cannot overstate the impact that this work is having – every GP to whom I have spoken has been very excited about the idea and loves that we are being consulted – as when we combine our forces, we get much better solutions,” the attendee said.

Thank you to The Hospital Research Foundation for a $190,000 grant that will help fund the first year of this pilot program in general surgery and orthopaedic joint replacement.