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Simple instruction sheet can help improve patient outcomes ahead of surgery

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Preparing for surgery isn't necessarily a straightforward endeavor for people who take prescribed medication for chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. Indeed, taking medication correctly before a surgical appointment can not only improve patient safety and comfort but also reduce costly cancellations.

A new study presented at the Anesthesiology 2016 annual meeting found that patients may be likelier to take their regularly prescribed meds when they are given a sheet of simple instructions.

"We looked at ways to help patients who were being admitted to the hospital on the morning of surgery comply with their physician's medication instructions," said Andrew Grant, MB, ChB, study lead author, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, Scotland. "Our goal was to make sure patients were as healthy as possible before surgery, improve safety and limit surgical cancellations due to patients incorrectly omitting certain medications or simply taking them improperly."

Typically, patients receive verbal instructions at pre-assessment clinics. The clinic assesses whether patients should take long-term medications on the day of surgery or whether to temporarily suspend them.

In the study, 48 patients undergoing elective orthopedic surgery who had been given verbal instructions, and 57 patients who were given a newly implemented simple, medication instruction sheet — which nurses filled in with patients — in a pre-assessment clinic were evaluated to determine error rate.

In the group that received the instruction sheet, the rate in which patients properly took or omitted their medications increased from 54% to 74%. Conversely, the number of patients who incorrectly omitted taking their medications decreased from 42% to 25% and those who incorrectly took their medications decreased from 6% to 2%.

"This is an inexpensive intervention that has been highly rated by staff," said Dr. Grant. "While the approach seems simple, re-enforcement of delivered information in written format can increase patients' compliance with advice given at pre-assessment and actively engages them in their own health care."

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