Background: The benefits of enhanced recovery program (ERP) implementation include patient engagement, improved patient outcomes and satisfaction, better team relationships, lower per episode costs of care, lower public consumption of narcotic prescription pills, and the promise of greater access to quality surgical care. Despite these positive attributes, vast numbers of surgical patients are not treated on ERPs, and many of those considered “on pathway” are unlikely to be exposed to a majority of recommended ERP elements. Methods: To explain the gap between ERP knowledge and action, this manuscript reviewed formal implementation strategies, proposed a novel change adoption model and focused on common barriers (and corollary solutions) that are encountered during the journey to a fully implemented and successful ERP. Given the nature of this review, IRB approval was not required/obtained. Results: The information reviewed indicates that implementation of best practice is both a science and an art. What many surgeons have learned is that the “soft” skills of emotional intelligence, leadership, team dynamics, culture, buy-in, motivation, and sustainability are central to a successful ERP implementation. Conclusions: To lead teams toward achievement of pervasive and sustained adherence to best practices, surgeons need to learn new strategies, techniques, and skills.
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