How to Run a Successful Preoperative Class

Patients only retain 5% of the material covered in video or slideshow lectures

If you think about the way your pre-op class is run, chances are it looks something like this: bring in a group of patients, provide light refreshments and hit “play” on a DVD or talk through dense slides written by clinicians. In other words, in all likelihood your class is run in a way that fails to engage patients and teach them the game-changing information they need for a successful surgery.

By doing a few simple things, your joint replacement or specialty program can reap the full rewards of a patient pre-op class.

Get your FREE copy of Running a Successful Pre-Op Class. In the guide we share the secret recipe for holding a patient prep class that will be the envy of any hospital and fast-track your program to triumph.

How a Pre-Op Class Benefits Patients and Providers

Offering a pre-op education class is as much for the patient as it is for the provider. Continue reading as we break-down the specific benefits to patients, healthcare providers and administrators.

How Patients Benefit From a Pre-op Class:

There is a common misunderstanding that patients aren’t really interested in actively preparing for surgery. We think this couldn’t be further from the truth. When empowered, most patients will carry a lot of the weight when it comes to achieving a great outcome.

Let’s Breakdown Patient Benefits:

  • Gets patients familiar with the hospital environment. Lets patients meet and get comfortable with their care providers.
  • Gives patients the opportunity to meet others undergoing the same procedure around the same time (this can offer support during a lonely and isolated time).
  • Offers patients a safe space to ask questions, share concerns, and be empowered to continue lowering their pre-op risk and upping their overall preparedness.
  • Can diminish patient anxiety about the procedure by making surgery day less of an “unknown”. Puts patients in greater control over their upcoming surgery with clearer expectations and a reminder of the tangible ways they can participate in their own readiness.

The National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, reported, “Patients who attended the preoperative education class reported feeling better prepared for surgery and better able to control their pain after surgery.

How Providers Benefit from a Pre-Op Class:

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Providers benefit from pre-op classes in an a variety of ways that echo throughout the healthcare center. Above anything else, having patients who are better prepared means having patients who are lower risk, less financially burdensome, and are more satisfied with the procedure.

Let’s Breakdown Provider Benefits:

The National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses found that “20% more patients were discharged early in the Education group compared to the Conventional group.”

What You Can Accomplish With a Pre-Op Class

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Here’s what a Grade A pre-op class should aim to achieve:

  • Put patients on the trajectory of success by engaging them in the preparation process. Patients should have a stake in their pre-op health and surgery preparedness.
  • Check-in on how patient surgery preparation is going and how well they’re following their a PreHab program (we’ll touch on this later).
  • Give patients tangible ways they can participate in lowering their surgery risk and improving their outcome.
  • Inform the patients about the key logistics of the day and their hospital day.
  • Make patients and their caretakers more confident in the procedure and care team
  • Engage and listen to patients. Hear their feedback, address their concerns, forge a connection. Unify provider and patient goals (e.g. an efficient, safe, by-the-book surgery).

If patient engagement were a drug, it would be the blockbuster drug of the century and malpractice not to use it.

Where Your Pre-Op Class is Going Wrong

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Now that you’ve been reminded of the benefits of a well-executed pre-op class, here’s how and why you class could be falling short.

1. Patients Aren’t Retaining the Information

There are numerous popular studies that offer insight into how people learn and retain information. These studies underscore how different methods of teaching create different levels of retention. One major take-away for class instructors: hands-off, low-engagement teaching delivers weaker student retention.

The average patient will retain only 5% of what they hear from a PowerPoint Presentation or video lecture.

Here’s the percentage of information the average patient retains:

  • 5% of what they learn when they've learned from lecture (like listening to a lesson about how to go down stairs after joint surgery).
  • 20% of what they learn from audio-visual (like watching a video about properly going down stairs).
  • 50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion (like talking as a class about how to go down stairs).
  • 75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned (like physically practicing going down stairs).
  • 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else or use teaching immediately (like teaching a peer how to go down stairs).

If you think about how your pre-op orientation class is run, chances are most of it is done over a slide presentation, with a hand-out, video demonstration, and brief Q&A. In other words, majority of standard pre-op classes are taught in ways with poor patient learning.

Lecturing, reading, and audio-visual teaching has a low patient retention rate. Getting patients to use or repeat what they’ve learned immediately will help them to actually process the information.

Having a 60-minute slideshow is as ineffective as it is boring. By having patients physically act out body movements, retell what they’ve learned, and by encouraging class discussions, patients are much more likely to remember the important info you’re sharing.

2. You’re Not Adjusting to Average Patient Literacy

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The American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that the readability of patient education materials should not exceed a sixth-grade reading level. Unless class materials are written for a 6th grade reading level (or lower) there will likely be patients that won’t understand the materials you rely on. A study in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research cites that, “About one in five (21%) adults in the US reads at or below the fifth-grade level.

Another study in the Permanente Journal states that, “limited literacy skills are one of the strongest predictors of poor health outcomes for patients.

Despite the negative effects of limited literacy and the need for 6th grade reading level materials, “Most healthcare materials are written at a 10th-grade level or higher”. According to the same Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research study this means that about 1/2 of adults who are given these materials cannot understand them. There is a massive communication gap between provider and patient.

It’s important to run a pre-op class that is not only interactive, but is taught in a way that’s accessible. Give patients the chance to actively participate in their surgery by making all in-class lessons and handout materials calibrated to a 6th grade reading level.

3. You’re Treating it Like a Sprint, Not a Marathon

A pre-op class, although an integral part of patient preparedness, does not take advantage of the weeks of lead time most patients have before surgery. Once a surgery is scheduled patients should be given their patient’s guide, pre-op exercise list, and some tangible goals to hit before the class session and their surgery date.

Most patients want to be engaged in their surgery prep and understand the role they play in their own outcome. Dr. Elizabeth Chabner, MD explains, “Give patients things they can control. This way, they’ll feel like they have some ability to affect their own outcome by their own preparation. By doing this, you’re giving them 90% of the workload and you can really enhance patient confidence.”

During the patient’s scheduling appointment, Dr. Chabner warns, don’t “send patients away with less information, send them away with as much as you can. They won’t be in the dark, they’ll be empowered.”

By discounting the proactiveness of patients and not giving them the opportunity to channel their nervousness and fear into getting physically, mentally and environmentally prepared for surgery, you’re selling them short and missing a great opportunity. Read on for a customizable solution that will help get your patients ready for surgery behind-the-scenes and allow you to run the most effective pre-op class.

4 Best Practices for Running a Top Pre-Op Class

To read the 4 Best Practices for Running a Top Pre-Op Class, Download our complete, FREE guide: Running a Successful Pre-Op Class.

1. Incentivize Attendance

For actionable ways to improve your class, Get your FREE copy of Running a Successful Pre-Op Class

2. ...

3. ...

Get our How-To Guide on Running a Successful Pre-Op Class and hold a pre-op class that truly benefits you and patients.*

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Are you a healthcare provider? Are you overseeing a pre-op class? If you’re interested in learning how PreHab will help you crush some of your toughest goals, reach out.

Download the how-to guide and start running a better orientation class, today.

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Hi, I'm Grace. I write all things surgery for the PeerWell blog. You may remember me from such titles as: "Diabetes & Joint Replacement 101" & "Sex After a Joint Replacement".

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