How Prehabilitation Can Improve Outcomes and Reduce Hospital Costs

Doug Desjardins for HealthLeaders Media, August 14, 2013

Better preparing cancer patients for surgery and the rigors of treatment regimens can improve patient outcomes and generate cost savings through shorter hospital stays and fewer readmissions, researchers say.

A study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation points to the results of several recent pilot programs involving cancer patients that show prehabilitation programs helped patients recover more quickly from surgeries and pursue follow-up care. The study suggests that taking advantage of a small "window of opportunity" before surgery can "improve patient outcomes and reduce direct and indirect healthcare costs."

"There's a long history of using prehabilitation in other settings such orthopedic surgeries and heart bypass surgeries," said Julie K. Silver, MD, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study titled Cancer Prehabilitation: An Opportunity to Decrease Treatment-Related Morbidity, Increase Cancer Treatment Options, and Improve Physical and Psychological Health Outcomes. "And our review shows there's a great opportunity to use prehabilitation to improve health outcomes for cancer patients as well."

Silver says the concept of prehabilitation has been around for decades, dating back to a 1946 pilot program in which 85% of 12,000 formerly substandard military recruits were able to pass recruitment exams after a two-month improvement program. More recently, a study of patients undergoing knee replacement surgery showed patients who exercised before their surgery recovered more quickly and had fewer complications than those who didn't exercise.


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