Life after "no": barriers to behavior change for persons declined hernia repair due to high-risk features

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Surgical endoscopy


INTRODUCTION: Delaying an elective operation to mitigate risk factors improves patient outcomes. Elective ventral hernia repair is one such example. To address this issue, we developed a pre-operative optimization clinic to support high-risk patients seeking elective ventral hernia repair. Unfortunately, few patients progressed to surgery. Within this context, we sought to understand the barriers to behavior change among these patients with the goal of improving care for patients undergoing elective surgery.

METHODS: We performed semi-structured, qualitative interviews with 20 patients who were declined ventral hernia repair due to either active tobacco use or obesity. Patients were recruited from a pre-operative optimization clinic at an academic hospital. Interviews sought to characterize patients' perceived barriers to behavior change. Interviews were concluded once thematic saturation was reached. We used an inductive thematic analysis to analyze the data. All data analysis was performed using MAXQDA software.

RESULTS: Among 20 patients (mean age 50, 65% female, 65% White), none had yet undergone ventral hernia repair. While most patients had a positive experience in the clinic, among those who did not, we found three dominant themes around behavior change: (1) Patient's role in behavior change: how the patient perceived their role in making behavior changes optimize their health for surgery; (2) Obtainability of offered resources: the need for more support for patients to access the recommended healthcare; and (3) Patient-provider concordance: the extent to which patients and providers agree on the relative importance of different attributes of their care.

CONCLUSION: Behavior change prior to elective surgery is complex and multifaceted. While improving access to tobacco cessation resources and obesity management may improve outcomes for some, patients may benefit from increased on-site facilitation to promote access to resources as well as the use of patient-facing decision support tools to promote patient-provider concordance.

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ePub ahead of print