8 key trends on orthopedic surgeon demographics

Practice Management

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' AAOS Now recently published a report based on the "Orthopaedic Practice in the United States Survey" results, examining trends from 2008 to 2016. 


Here are eight key trends from the report:


1. Orthopedic surgeons are more likely to specialize than they were five years ago. In 2008, 44.3 percent of orthopedists were specialists; by 2010, 48 percent identified as specialists. The percentage continued to grow until 2016, when 58 percent reported specialization.


2. The number of orthopedic surgeons identifying as generalists with specialty interest has dropped slightly since 2008, when 28.6 percent reported as such. However, after increasing for four years, the number of orthopedists identifying as generalists with specialty interest dropped to 25 percent in 2016.


3. After increasing from 18.1 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2010, the number of orthopedists identifying as generalists dropped to 17 percent by 2016.


4. The percentage of orthopedists identifying as adult hip and knee surgeons dropped from 2008 to 2016 while the number of surgeons without a primary specialty area increased. Surgeons identifying as spine specialists experienced a huge drop; in 2008, 10.9 percent of orthopedists were adult spine specialists, compared to 2.4 percent in 2016.


The breakdown includes:


• Arthroscopy: 26.6 percent
• Adult knee: 24.9 percent
• Shoulder/elbow: 23.2 percent
• Adult hip: 20.8 percent
• Sports medicine: 18.2 percent
• Total joint: 18.1 percent
• Trauma: 17.6 percent
• Hand: 6.4 percent
• Foot and ankle: 5.6 percent
• Pediatric orthopedics: 4.2 percent
• Pediatric spine: 4.2 percent
• Disability/legal orthopedics: 3.3 percent
• Adult spine: 2.4 percent
• Orthopedic oncology: 0.6 percent


Not all orthopedists responded with a surgical specialty, therefore the percentages represented here do not add up to 100.


5. Most orthopedic surgeons identify as Caucasian — 86.6 percent reported Caucasian race. The percentage of Caucasian orthopedists is similar among male and female surgeons. The racial breakdown for orthopedists in 2016 was:


• Caucasian: 56.6 percent
• Asian: 6.7 percent
• Hispanic/Latino: 1.7 percent
• African American: 1.5 percent
• Multi-racial: 1.2 percent
• Native American: 0.4 percent


Another 1.7 percent identified as "other."


6. The average age of orthopedic surgeons is growing older; in 2008, the average age was 50.7 years old while in 2016 the average age was 56.48 years old. Most of the full-time orthopedists were 40 years old to 59 years old, while part-time orthopedists were often 60 years old or older.


7. More women are becoming orthopedic surgeons, but the gender gap in orthopedics remains significant. In 2008, 96 percent of orthopedists were male and 4 percent were female. By 2016, 93.4 percent of orthopedists identified as male and 6.5 percent identified as female.


8. Around half of orthopedic surgeons remain in private practice, according to the report. Eleven percent are in solo practice while 35 percent are in a private practice group; another 9 percent report practicing in a multispecialty group. Just 17 percent of orthopedists report a hospital center as their practice setting.


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