Washington state surgeons and the Strong for Surgery program have released standardized guidelines for pre-operative care in the form of pre-surgical checklists. Strong for Surgery is issuing a set of checklists and tools available to all surgeons to use in their offices or by patients at home to ensure that the health of patients is optimized before surgery.

Nearly one-third of hospitalized patients experience adverse events related to their care, and far too often these events are preventable. While quality improvement initiatives have made surgery safer and have achieved improved outcomes, they usually focus on the care of patients once they enter the hospital. Strong for Surgery provides the opportunity for early
intervention to reduce risks prior to hospitalization.

The Strong for Surgery checklists assess whether patients have modifiable risks for surgery and then offer a set of interventions to reduce the risk before hospitalization. They address four target areas: nutritional support to prevent infections, reducing cigarette smoking, reviewing and coordinating potentially dangerous medications and improving diabetes care before surgery.

A group of committed surgeons developed the Strong for Surgery pre-surgical checklists. Checklists are not new to surgery. The State of Washington was an early adopter of the SCOAP surgical checklist, ensuring that every operating room across the state posted the operative checklist in 2010.

“Strong for Surgery takes the idea of checklists and moves them to where decisions are being made before the patient gets to the hospital,” said Dr. Tom Varghese, MD, who is leading Strong for Surgery. “Putting the checklist in every doctor’s office across the state takes the focus of surgical safety beyond the operating room. Surgical preparedness now becomes part of the basic conversation about planning for surgery and the patient shares in that process. It empowers patients.”

Free toolkits are available at www.strongforsurgery.org. The toolkits contain all of the Strong for Surgery checklists, and all of the accompanying resources, references, forms and other supporting materials.