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Facing Unprecedented Increase in Procedures, Orthopaedic Surgeons Rely on New Tools

Thursday, January 12, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Dr. Jonathan Fialkov, Rational Surgical Solutions
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The aging baby boomer population is expected to drive the need for knee and hip replacement operations by unprecedented numbers over the next 15 years. A study published by the National Institute of Health  estimates that by 2030 the number of total hip arthroplasties will increase by 174%, reaching 572,000 procedures, and the number of primary total knee replacements may increase by 673% to reach 3.48 million procedures! These statistics must be coupled with a diminishing surgeon workforce, decreasing reimbursement and increasing demands by bundled care initiatives. As a result, the pressure will be on for orthopaedic surgeons to improve practice efficiencies, increase patient flow and secure high patient satisfaction ratings.

There is no single solution. Rather, success will involve leveraging technology and techniques that engage and educate patients, make them active participants in their own care and free up doctors to focus on the most important aspects of their patients’ treatment. Multiple studies have shown that educated patients make better decisions, are more compliant with discharge instructions and are most likely to have good outcomes. Good outcomes translate into consistent and manageable costs and satisfied patients. In fact, patients who have a clear understanding of their after-hospital care instructions, including how to take their medicines and when to make follow-up appointments, are 30% less likely to be readmitted to the hospital (according to a study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and published in the February 3, 2009, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

To achieve this success, many practices now leverage technology to streamline procedures, reduce costs, and support the criteria needed for reimbursements, such as meeting the “meaningful use” criteria for Medicare and OAS CAHPS patient satisfaction benchmarks. Video-based education is increasingly popular as a tool to explain pre- and post-care treatment to patients who are visual learners or who don’t understand complex medical terminology. Patient education videos help reduce the time doctors and nurses spend explaining routine information so they can focus on more detailed questions and patient care and see more patients. Educational videos can also help minimize anxiety over procedures, set more realistic expectations, and increase patient compliance.

Another trend is using platforms that build on the success of video-based education to integrate digital informed consent into the process. These apps quiz patients to confirm comprehension and record the patient-doctor consult so that patients can review the information later. The encrypted video and the signed digital informed consent document are stored on a HIPAA-compliant server, which eliminates lost paperwork and ensures that the information can be accessed and reviewed later and shared with family members or caregivers, using an online portal.  These apps help make informed consent more than just a formality; they help patients make better decisions by alleviating their anxiety so they can make the best choice for their health – often choosing more predictable surgeries, even if the procedures are more extensive.

Physicians who have used applications like these report that patients are better able to grasp the implications of their condition, their prognosis and treatment options, and ask better questions. Overall, practice managers find that automating routine procedures makes it easier to meet bundled care initiatives, thereby preventing penalties. Features such as secure patient-doctor messaging and text message reminders also help patients remember to schedule tests and keep appointments. The result is fewer patient complaints, fewer cancelled procedures, and fewer no shows.

These results, along with our own experience, suggest that embracing new technology platforms are among the best ways for practices to boost their efficiency, increase patient flow and improve patient satisfaction. New tools can help automate the day-to-day operations of the clinic, freeing up doctors and nurses to provide care to patients. When these tools also integrate pre-op and post-care education platforms, they can also help facilitate a practice meeting requirements for bundled care initiatives, such as the Comprehensive Reimbursement for Joint Replacement program, increase patient compliance and reduce penalties. Given these benefits, it is well worth investigating the increasing number of digital health solutions coming on the market.


About the Author

Dr. Jonathan Fialkov, FACS, is the founder and President of Rational Surgical Solutions, a company he formed to help find solutions to problems existing in patient care. The company has developed a portfolio of products that help physicians, surgeons, and advanced practitioners leverage mHealth technology to improve patient care and education, revolutionize the informed consent process, increase the efficiency of healthcare providers, and reduce costs. 

Dr. Fialkov received his medical degree from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he specialized in Urology, and has completed more than 20,000 surgeries.

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