Providing patients with a simple, multicolor, standardized medication instruction sheet before surgery will enhance compliance and reduce postop stay in recovery, finds a new study in the July issue of Anesthesiology.

“Certain long-term medications should be continued on the day of surgery, and some should be temporarily stopped, but there is no consistency in how patients receive medication instructions before surgery,” says lead study author Thomas Vetter, MD, MPH, an anesthesiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine, in a news release.

The study compared 519 surgical patients who were given preoperative medication instructions through traditional methods (annotated or highlighted portions of the patient’s electronic medical record, or verbal instructions) and 531 patients who were given a written, standardized preoperative medication instruction sheet, which was presented and verbally reviewed with patients. The instruction sheet listed all of the medications the patient was instructed to take on the day of surgery, the medications the patient should not take, and the medications that could be taken as needed. The instruction sheet included multicolor graphics to further improve patient recall and compliance.

Overall, 74% of patients who received an instruction sheet were compliant with their medication instructions on the day of surgery, versus 60% in the control group. Patients were also less likely to stay in recovery after surgery for more than 90 minutes when an instruction sheet was administered, the study showed. Interestingly, African Americans, older adults (over 65), and patients with more than one chronic disease had lower medication compliance.

“Our findings show that providing patients with a standardized instruction sheet, both written and verbally, with simple language can improve compliance significantly. However, we speculate that a more concerted effort may be required to improve preoperative medication compliance in certain patients such as the geriatric population.”