1. Increasing incidence of bone disorders
America is getting older and heavier, and the impact is already being felt in the orthopedic industry. The combination of decades of wear-and-tear and the burden of carrying so much extra weight is leading to increased pressure on many Americans’ joints, which can cause joint damage, arthritis, and other bone-related disorders. Osteoporosis and low bone mass, for example, are currently estimated to be major public health concerns for almost 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older, and if the trend continues it is estimated the figure will climb to more than 61 million by 20201. Couple that with the fact that the number of annual orthopedic surgeries is expected to reach 6.6 million by 20202, and it is no surprise that the increase in bone disorders is fueling increased demand for orthopedic care.
2. Declining reimbursements
Advancements in technology are what continue to move the orthopedic industry forward, yet these improvements can also be challenging for many practices when it comes to reimbursements. Ongoing reimbursement cuts for older technologies are forcing many practices to reconsider upgrading their orthopedic solutions. Those still using analog equipment will face a 20 percent reduction in reimbursement in 2017, while those using computed radiography will see cuts of 7 percent starting in 20183. While technology is often a friend to those in the industry, it is also having a big impact on how orthopedic practices are approaching future plans.
3. Continued growth of sports medicine and spine
Americans are more determined than ever before to stay active at every age, which is why it is no surprise that sports medicine and spine continue to be two key areas of growth for the orthopedic industry. According to the Advisory Board, sports and spine medicine are projected to have the highest volume in number and patient encounters within the sub-service line for orthopedic specialties.4 As people live more active lives, participation in athletic endeavors is increasing, which is also leading to a record number of sports injuries around the world. In fact, the projected growth of sports medicine from 2014-2019 is 26 percent, while the projected growth of spine is 24 percent.5 Orthopedic surgeons new to the field as well as seasoned professionals should take note of the growth in these two specialties as they build plans for their careers and practices.
4. Practice consolidation
Practice consolidation is happening across the board. Fueling this trend is a combination of factors, including declining reimbursements, increased regulatory burdens, and struggles with the management of increasing costs.5 Smaller orthopedic practices are especially vulnerable to consolidation, with hospital systems looking to acquire them as a means of achieving a better strategic advantage and enhanced utilization of resources. However, it is interesting to note that researchers have not illustrated that large practices yield enhanced outcomes and lower costs, so the overall impact of consolidation on patients, physicians, payers and the healthcare system as a whole still has yet to be seen.6
5. Shift to value-based care
The country’s healthcare system is seeing a progressive shift from volume-based practice to value-based practice, and the impact is being felt by everyone. Orthopedic surgeons in particular will find that pressures to cut costs and maintain excellence in healthcare, even while reimbursements continue to decline and patient volume increases, are constant.6 Nevertheless, in an industry that continues to see consolidation, orthopedic practices will need to focus on improving their quality scores as a primary way to distinguish their facilities from competing hospitals.
Looking forward, it may seem the challenges and changes within the industry are overwhelming, but with continued planning and adaptation, orthopedic practices of every size can find opportunity and success in the growing field.
1 International Osteoporosis Foundation, “Facts and Statistics,” accessed on Nov. 18, 2016 – https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics#category-14
2 Reportlinker, “Reportlinker Adds Epidemiology: Major Orthopedic Surgery - On the rise as the global elderly population continues to grow accessed on Nov. 18, 2016 – http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/reportlinker-adds-epidemiology-major-orthopedic-surgery---on-the-rise-as-the-global-elderly-population-continues-to-grow-122648243.html
3 The Advisory Board, “Medicare x-ray reimbursement cuts on the horizon,” accessed on Nov. 18, 2016 – https://www.advisory.com/research/imaging-performance-partnership/the-reading-room/2016/02/x-ray-reimbursement-cuts
4 The Advisory Board, “2016 Orthopedic Market Trends; Inpatient and Outpatient Market Estimators; Service Line Strategy Advisor research and analysis.”
5 Healio Orthopedics Today, “Surgeon insights on the changing landscape of orthopedic care,” accessed on Feb. 2, 2017 - http://www.healio.com/orthopedics/business-of-orthopedics/news/print/orthopedics-today/%7Bacc02ad4-a32d-44a6-8369-77fe5723cc47%7D/surgeon-insights-on-the-changing-landscape-of-orthopedic-care
6 Medscape, “Consolidation of US Physician Practices Continues to Surge,” accessed Feb. 2, 2017 - http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/868526
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