Why Dr. Alexander Vaccaro is optimistic about the spine, orthopedic industries

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Longer life expectancies, increased adoption of value-based care and the streamlining of practices are some of the reasons why Alexander Vaccaro, MD, PhD, says he is optimistic about the spine and orthopedic industries. 

Dr. Vaccaro is president of Philadelphia-based Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. He recently spoke with Becker's to share his outlook on the industries.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Question: What is one word you'd use to describe your outlook on the spine/orthopedic industry right now, and why?

Dr. Alexander Vaccaro: The word that I would use to describe my outlook on the spine and orthopedic industry is "optimistic." I believe this is true both from the perspective of the spine and orthopedic industry manufacturers as well as from the perspective of the patient, physician and healthcare system. 

From the standpoint of the medical device and implant manufacturers, longer life expectancies and an aging population are expected to drive continued and accelerated growth of both of these arenas, increasing the need for orthopedic surgeries to address pathologies driven by degenerative changes, such as hip and knee arthritis or lumbar spinal stenosis. This is expected to lead to market sales reaching nearly $50 billion by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate of 3.3 percent by some estimates. Certainly, by this metric, the outlook for the industry and demand for orthopedic devices and implants is very optimistic. 

The outlook of the physician and the patient, however, is also similarly optimistic when exploring the nuances of the issue further. The increasing adoption of value-based care and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, has spurred changes in how orthopedic surgeons practice and deliver care, with increasing attention paid to reducing costs, adhering to evidence-based treatments and devices, transitioning to outpatient surgeries or ASCs and streamlining implant and instrument needs in the operating room. This in turn has put pressure on the orthopedic and spine industries to cut costs for medical device design, manufacture and delivery. 

In addition, with ever-increasing availability of information and consumer electronics, patients are now more able than ever to scrutinize the validity of medical device claims or the evidence behind physician recommendations, as well as educate themselves on costs and performance related to medical procedures and devices. 

Orthopedic surgeons similarly are under pressure to streamline their practices and cut costs as well, paying higher attention to implants and manufacturers that provide the most optimal ratio of performance and reliability to cost. As such, the spine and orthopedic industry manufacturers will be pressured to innovate and improve their products both in terms of performance, cost-effectiveness and efficiency in delivery to the benefit of the patient, provider and hospital system alike.

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