How can pre and postoperative procedures cut costs and prevent pain? Claiborne Medical Center applies innovative protocol

Tazewell, Tenn.-based Claiborne Medical Center is one of only 21 hospitals in the state to use the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery protocol, which acts as an alternative to opioid use for postoperative pain, reduces the time patients spend recovering from surgery and helps hospitals cut costs, the Middlesboro Daily News reports.

 Robert Wilmoth, MD, FACS, a surgeon at Claiborne Medical Center, told the Middlesboro Daily News that the ERAS protocol includes pre-surgery steps like letting the patient drink Gatorade before surgery to ensure the colon doesn't stop working after the operation. Other pre-operative procedures in the protocol include giving the patient Tylenol and Neurontin to help prevent pain before surgery.

“With the patients undergoing ERAS protocol, we're telling them we're not going to use much, if any, narcotic medication. But, we are going to use other pain meds. We're not going to make you 100 percent pain-free but, we're going to control your pain in ways to avoid the harmful side-effects of opioid use and possible addiction,” Dr. Wilmoth told the Middlesboro Daily News.

Patients are also given nausea prevention patches postoperation, and when combined with pre-operative steps, helps reduce the time patients spend recovering from surgery. According to a study of the ERAS protocol done by Robin Day, RN, and surgical clinical reviewer, ERAS patients stayed in the hospital on average only 1.8 days, compared to 4.8 days using traditional protocols.

Ms. Day’s study showed a reduction of $2,890 in costs due to shorter hospital stays. In addition to $258 saved in fluid use, compared to the traditional protocol. Medication use cost $239 more for the ERAS protocol compared to the traditional option, but the study found that ERAS saved patients on average $2,909 overall when comparing the three areas.

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