American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Statement on the Principles of Patient Education

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Patient Education Committee has revised the ACS “Statement on principles of patient education”—originally published in the August 2006 issue of the Bulletin—to increase the emphasis on patient education and engagement in the delivery of safe surgical care. The ACS Board of Regents reviewed and approved the revision at its February meeting. 

Because the patient is an integral member of the surgical team, patient education is essential to the delivery of high-value, safe surgical care. Patient education and the activation of their support systems can improve treatment compliance, decrease complications, and enhance patient-reported outcomes and experience. Patients should possess the requisite knowledge and skills to contribute effectively to their care. The American Board of Medical Specialties and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education have emphasized the critically important role of patients within the health care team.1

The ACS supports the recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) underscoring patient rights and responsibilities to fully participate in their care.2,3 Patients should be educated to make informed decisions with a clear understanding of surgical implications. Patients should also be trained to actively participate in perioperative care, when possible. Patient education materials should be based on contemporary principles of evidence-based medicine tailored to the individual patient’s needs with a particular focus on health literacy.

The ACS supports the following actions:

  • Assessing the individual health care needs of each patient with respect to patient culture, gender, age, and health literacy.
  • Employing patient-centered decision support tools at the point-of-care to aid understanding of perioperative surgical implications.
  • Applying appropriate methods to ensure patient involvement and confirm patient comprehension during the patient education process.
  • Providing durable educational materials to the patient and support team. Patient education materials should detail pre-, peri-, and postoperative expectations to optimally support convalescing patients.
  • Effectively discharging patients with the education, skills, and clinical information that support safe care transitions. As noted in the ACS Statements on Principles, “The surgeon will ensure appropriate continuity of care of the surgical patient.”
  • Improving access to accurate patient education information offered by the ACS and other professional organizations.
  • Multi-organization collaborations to optimize patient access to validated education resources.
  • Promoting and critically evaluating the science, practice, and certification of successful patient education programs.


  1. American Board of Medical Specialties. A trusted credential: Based on core competencies. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2016.
  2. Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. Institute of Medicine. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2016.
  3. Institute of Medicine. Best care at lower cost: The path to continuously learning health care in America. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2016.
  4. American College of Surgeons. Statements on Principles: Continuity of Care. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2016.