How to Efficiently Guide Patients Along Their Bariatric Journey

A doctor being sure to efficiently guide patients along their bariatric journey

What you do to guide patients along their bariatric journey can make all the difference in the outcome.

Your patient’s bariatric journey is life-changing. They look different, feel different, and are often treated differently than they were pre-surgery. This can have a profound psychological impact in addition to the physical outcomes. But not every patient experience is a positive one. Studies have shown the importance of supporting patients and following up with them after surgery. 

And other specialties take note: From oncology surgery patient care to improving the obstetrics experience, every healthcare provider can benefit from these tips.

Key Takeaways

  • Efficiently guiding patients along their bariatric journey is vital to ensuring good outcomes.
  • Preoperative support should include good communication and building the patient’s trust.
  • Postoperative support should continue long term to help prevent negative outcomes.

Why is Good Guidance So Important?

Patients with morbid obesity show a significant improvement in quality of life, general health status, and depression after bariatric surgery. Increasing numbers of patients are deciding that bariatric surgery is the right path for them: According to findings by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the number of people having bariatric surgery increased by 62% from 2011 to 2019.

Estimate of Bariatric Surgery Numbers, 2011-2019
Image Source American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery ASMBS

Most bariatric patients report positive changes including increased mobility, confidence, and self-esteem. They often feel more mobile and even “normal.” However, a successful treatment relies on providing a good pre- and post-surgery experience for every patient. Building trust and maintaining clear communication throughout the bariatric journey are just as important as what happens under the scalpel.

Preventing Negative Outcomes of Bariatric Surgery with Efficient Guidance

Many negative impacts can come alongside all the positive changes of bariatric surgery.

For example, your bariatric patients can be at high risk of developing a postoperative eating disorder. Patients with excess skin that hangs loose commonly feel shame and embarrassment about their physical appearance, which often affects their relationships. Some weight gain after surgery is normal but can be alarming and discouraging if your patient is not expecting it.  Preparing your patients early in their journeys is often the key to ensuring that they are ready not just for surgery but for some of the complications that may result as well.  

Patients can also experience health complications such as nutritional deficiencies, low blood pressure, and menstrual problems. Many report not knowing who to contact for ongoing help and support when these occurred. Still others suffer from the social stigma and shame surrounding weight loss surgery, leading to feelings of isolation and abandonment.

You can minimize these negative outcomes by actively involving your patient in all phases of the treatment, from preoperative preparation to postoperative care, helping them understand what to expect and be prepared for many changes to come.  By efficiently guiding your patients along their bariatric journey, you can play an important role in alleviating these issues.

How to Efficiently Guide Patients Along Their Bariatric Journey

Both preoperative and postoperative guidance are incredibly important for good outcomes after bariatric surgery. Clear communication in lay language helps to empower patients in their own healthcare and builds all-important trust between you and your patients.

How to Guide Patients Pre-Operation 

Preparing for surgery can be overwhelming for patients, but great preoperative support is vital to success.

It is also important for the patient to participate actively in the selection of the bariatric procedure, choosing the type of surgery, learning about possible complications, and determining the time for dieting before and after surgery.

You should tell your patient what to expect on the day of the surgery, including who they should reach out to with any questions they have. Communicate all the information a patient needs in clear, jargon-free language to ensure that they understand and are not overwhelmed. Always offer to answer any questions they have.

As medical professionals, it can sometimes be hard to recall what the patient’s experience is like because what is everyday terminology for you might sound like an alien language to them.

Estimate of Bariatric Surgery Numbers, 2011-2019
Source httpspubmedncbinlmnihgov19060953

Some examples of questions you might ask yourself and your staff to ensure thorough and clear preoperative communication might include:

  • Are all our communications clear and free of technical jargon?
  • Is our clinic accessible? Have we provided a site map, directions, parking and accessibility information?
  • Do patients have a clear point of contact to discuss appointments and arrange special needs like language services?
  • Are patients encouraged to bring a friend or loved one to the consultations if they want to?
  • At the appointment, has everyone in the room been introduced and their role explained to help orient the patient?

By taking the time to put yourself in the patient’s shoes, you will be in a better position to create a smooth and welcoming pre-surgery experience.

How to Guide Patients Post-Operation

The postoperative follow-up is an equally crucial part of the treatment. The patient must be carefully informed of the correct dosage of any medications, their new nutritional needs, and any possible complications to look out for.

Moreover, continuing to follow up with patients over the long term is incredibly important. Unfortunately, many patients report feeling abandoned after their surgery. Some describe frustration that all the information they received was about the first six weeks after the operation, but that there is no ongoing support after that.

Many are unsure who they should reach out to with questions or to report complications, or feel brushed off by surgery staff. This can have a hugely negative impact on the outcome of their surgery, not to mention their opinion of your facility.

You can improve postoperative surgery patient care by maintaining clear, open, ongoing lines of communication so that patients feel fully supported. Let them know that their bariatric journey isn’t over when they leave your clinic.

According to a recent study, the aspects of follow-up that many patients found most helpful included:

  • Routine monitoring of weight and nutrition 
  • Having at least one healthcare provider who was easy to contact whenever they needed to
  • Having a range of contact options available, such as phone and email
  • Good continuity of care, so that they could see the same healthcare professionals at each appointment

Think about integrating these and other aspects to provide your patients with complete, ongoing care.

Bonus Tip: Use Technology to Efficiently Guide Patients Along Their Bariatric Journey

Modern technology brings great opportunities for doctors and patients. More than ever before, you can leverage technology to help you guide your patients efficiently and effectively through their surgery journey. Whether you work in bariatrics, orthopedics, or want to improve your oncology surgery patient care, Wellbe’s ConnectedCare™ platform helps support the entire patient process by automating and organizing hundreds of non-clinical tasks.

Learn more about how Wellbe can guide your patients through their bariatric journey.