Can you guarantee outcomes? Virginia Mason offers total joint replacement warranty

Written by Laura Dyrda | September 10, 2014 | Print  |

Virginia Mason, a nonprofit regional healthcare system in Seattle, implemented a program to offer warranties for knee and hip replacement surgeries. The program is designed to protect patients, insurance providers and employers from incurring additional costs from avoidable surgery-related complications.

This is the first hospital in the state and one of the first in the nation to offer surgical warranties for total joint replacement. By offering the warranty, Virginia Mason is backing-up their outcomes and assuming risk for preventable surgical complications and infections. Here are five things to know about the warranty:


•    It's part of a bundled-service contract.
•    The contract is available to insurance companies and businesses.
•    The warranty covers the full range of care, including diagnosis, surgery and rehabilitation.
•    The warranty only covers the services if they are delivered by Virginia Mason.
•    The warranty does not cover complications related to implant or device failure.


As healthcare providers are looking for new ways to attract patients and appeal to insurance companies and self-insured employers, many are finding new ways to save while still providing quality care. The warranty model allows Virginia Mason to provide the bundled service throughout the Employers Centers of Excellence Network with predictable-cost knee and hip procedures. The centers currently service several large companies, including Walmart and Lowe's.


"Healthcare costs must be tamed," said Virginia Mason Chairman and CEO Gary S. Kaplan, MD. "We view our surgical warranty as a significant step in that direction. Offering this assurance speaks to the skill of our surgeons and of their team, and of our willingness as an organization to stand behind their work."


The current reimbursement system pays fee-for-service, meaning the more procedures and tests done, the more providers are paid. However, healthcare reform is shifting that focus to pay-for-performance, so providers are compensated for quality outcomes where patients show improvement and costs are controlled.


Medicare spends around $6 billion on hip and knee surgeries every year and there were more than 332,000 hip procedures and 719,000 knee procedures performed in 2010. If bundled payment deals and warranties are able to lower costs, they could make a significant impact on healthcare spending.


While the warranty is a relatively new concept in medicine — and orthopedics — Titan Spine also announced earlier this week the company would offer warranties on their spinal interbody fusion devices. The warranty covers a one-time free replacement for Titan spinal interbody fusion devices if the patient needs a revision surgery within five years, as outlined in the terms of the agreement.


"In my experience this is the first time that a device company in the spine market has offered such a guarantee," said Titan Spine Chief Medical Officer Paul Slosar, MD. "The warranty highlights the recognition that our engineered spine implants continue to lead the surface technology space."


More articles on orthopedic surgery:
Hip surgery risk factors, revision outcomes: 5 things to know
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Myron Bailey retires
Dr. Matthew Colman, Adam Yanke join Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush

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