Geisinger launches program meant to 'redesign' surgical experience

Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System is launching a program to "redesign" the surgical experience aimed at improving the healing process following surgery while ultimately tackling one of the major sources of opioid addiction: postsurgical care. 

Officials said they Proven Recovery program rethinks the surgical experience by pushing patients to be healthier before surgery, which leads to fewer complications.

Since a pilot of the program began in June 2017, the health system said it drove an 18% decrease in opioid usage across the system. At the same time, neurosurgery and colon surgery patients saw their hospital stays cut in half, saving more than $1.5 million.

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"In my 35 years of surgery, this is the innovation with the greatest potential to improve the patient experience, save lives, reduce complications and be less disruptive to patients," said Neil Martin, M.D., Geisinger's chief quality officer in a statement.

How does it work? Officials said they focused on three key measures:

  • Proper nutrition: During a presurgery consultation, patients receive a kit with care instructions, mobility instructions and immunonutrition drinks. Rather than fasting before surgery, the patients consume a medicinal drink meant to get them to proper nutrition level before surgery which can help reduce infection and accelerate healing, officials said.
  • Pain management: Officials said they use an approach that is opioid avoiding and, in some cases, opioid-free, by targeting the patient's pain in the surgical area. They also use a combination of nonopioid medications such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, gabapentin, ketamine and lidocaine.
  • Mobility after surgery: Patients are pushed to move around in or take a few steps away from their bed while still in the recovery room, using mobility to speed the recovery process.

In May, Geisinger announced it plans to make genetic testing a "routine" part of preventative healthcare at its facilities. In April, it announced its Fresh Food Farmacy initiative to address food insecurity and diabetes by improving access to better foods.