Background: The Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) colorectal guideline has been implemented widely across Alberta. Our study examined the clinical and cost impacts of ERAS on colon cancer patients across the province. Methods: We first used both summary statistics and multivariate regression methods to compare, before and after guideline implementation, clinical outcomes (length of stay, complications, readmissions) in consecutive elective colorectal patients 18 or more years of age and in colon cancer and non-cancer patients treated at the Peter Lougheed Centre and the Grey Nuns Hospital between February 2013 and December 2014. We then used the differences in clinical outcomes for colon cancer patients, together with the average cost per hospital day, to estimate cost impacts. Results: The analysis considered 790 patients (398 cancer and 392 non-cancer patients). Mean guideline compliance increased to 60% in cancer patients and 57% in non-cancer patients after ERAS implementation from 37% overall before ERAS implementation. From pre- to post-ERAS, mean length of stay declined to 8.4 ± 5 days from 9.5 ± 7 days in cancer patients, and to 6.4 ± 4 days from 8.8 ± 5.5 days in non-cancer patients (p = 0.0012 and p = 0.0041 respectively). Complications declined significantly in the renal, hepatic, pancreatic, and gastrointestinal groups (difference in proportions: 13% in cancer patients; p < 0.05). No significant change in the risk of readmission was observed. The net cost savings attributable to ERAS implementation ranged from $1,096 to $2,771 per cancer patient and from $3,388 to $7,103 per non-cancer patient. Conclusions: Implementation of ERAS not only resulted in clinical outcome improvements, but also had a significant beneficial impact on scarce health system resources. The effect for cancer patients was different from that for non-cancer patients, representing an opportunity for further refinement and study.
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