Does a strong support system shorten recovery time?

When I was younger, I had to have a few minor surgeries performed on my kidneys and liver. Throughout all the procedures, my parents were always there to hold my hand and be there whenever I needed them. I would wake up from my surgeries to bouquets of flowers, new toys, and a cheerful mom and dad to make me laugh when I wasn’t feeling so great. Whenever I think back to that time, I don’t recall it being miserable or painful, mostly because my parents made it so much easier for me to recover. I remembered this time in my life while I was watching Grey’s Anatomy a few months ago and the doctors on the show refused to perform a transplant surgery if the patient didn’t have friends or family to be with him after the procedure. Meredith Grey, the surgeon who would’ve been doing the procedure, said that the patient would never recover from such a major surgery if he didn’t have people to help him through it. This got me thinking; does a strong support system really help with and shorten recovery time?


According to a study published in the Journal of Anthropology in April of 2015, it drastically does. Avoiding Readmissions – Support Systems Required After Discharge to Continue Rapid Recovery, written by Doctor Paul K. Edwards and his colleagues from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, describes the results that the doctors have obtained from their experiment.

The “support system” that their experiment provides for the patients is calling TavHealth. According to their website, this service helps identify and solve barriers to care by providing social, financial, and community resources to patients so that after-discharge care is as high quality as possible. It also shares these resources with physicians and health care professionals to make sure that patients smoothly transition from being in a hospital to back to living their everyday lives (TavHealth). 

Their results supported their hypothesis! With 1281 patients without TavHealth, and 593 patient with TavHealth, total readmissions decreased from 205 (16%) to 54 (9.2%) with the support system that was provided for the patients. Patients with TavHealth were also discharged 26 hours earlier, on average, than patients without it, possibly making this a breakthrough in patient after care.


I have a few doubts about these results, though. Earlier in the semester we learned about the paper towel industry funding the research that claimed that hand dryers blew out hundreds of different types of bacteria to sway peoples/businesses decision about switching to hand dryers to save paper. According to Todays Hospitalist, many hospitals are being pressured to discharge patients earlier, even giving doctors a “prime discharge time”, which is 11 AM. Hospitals are even going as far as giving their staff monetary incentives to make sure that patients are out earlier and faster, which could potentially be dangerous for the patient if they are not healed properly or have not been giving the proper time to recover from a major surgery. Doctor Paul K. Edwards could have been pressured to find a positive correlation between TavHealth and shorter recovery times because that would save hospitals a lot of money, possibly making the study not as accurate as it should be.

The study also did not account for x variables when measuring results. Although all the patients did have total join orthoplasties (a total joint replacement surgery), the study did not once mention age, general health, previous surgeries, and whether or not the patients had a separate support system, like family and friends, to help them get through recovery and avoid readmission. Another x variable could have been the financial status of a patient. If the patient had a low income or no insurance, they probably could not have taken the full recommended time to heal since they had to go back to work to pay off the hospital bill or just to pay their bills in general. Although the support system was there for them, it wouldn’t have helped them with their money situation.

We want to believe that all the studies we read are accurate, but sadly many are fueled by money and politics. Just like when Trofim Lysenko, the Russian scientist who claimed that vernalized fields should had greater yields of wheat, caused mass starvation during the Soviet Union, this information could be causing people to be spending money on an unnecessary service that could possibly have no impact on recovery time and readmissions. Sadly, we don’t have many more studies that show the correlation between a strong support system and getting better quickly, so for now this is what were going to believe. And to be completely honest, getting help and proper attention after being in a gloomy hospital doesn’t sound too bad either. Definitely not as great as having your mom and dad there, but certainly better than being alone.



Sources –

  1. Source 1 – ScienceDirect Article on the Study
  2. Source 2 – TavHealth Website
  3. Source 3 – Today’s Hospitalist on Reducing Hospital Stay Time

Picture Sources –

  1. Picture 1
  2. Picture 2

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