'We have to take control of our future': How the pandemic affected 3 surgeons' outlook on orthopedics


The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how healthcare, including orthopedics, is carried out. Some surgeons are optimistic about changes, including increased telehealth visits and outpatient care. Others say the pandemic gave them time to notice problems with insurance reimbursement.

Three orthopedic surgeons told Becker's how the pandemic affected their mindset toward the specialty.

Ask Orthopedic Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting orthopedic care. We invite all orthopedic surgeon and specialist responses.

Next question: What’s your top clinical accomplishment in 2021?

Please send responses to Carly Behm at cbehm@beckershealthcare.com by 5 p.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 15.

Note: Responses were edited for style.

Question: Almost two years into the pandemic, how has it changed your outlook on orthopedics?

Mihir Patel, MD. OrthoIndy (Indianapolis): The pandemic has advanced orthopedic surgery in the outpatient setting. Phone and video visits have helped communication between practitioners and patients. With two-year follow-up, now outpatient procedures have proven to be safe and effective. Packaging of supplies has transformed to reduce turnover times and labor-intensive processes, allowing resources to be shifted toward fighting the pandemic in the acute setting. Obviously, we never wanted a pandemic, and we want it to end ASAP, but we have come out stronger, with safer, efficient processes for patients and providers as a result.

Mark Wichman, MD. Advocate Aurora (Milwaukee): My experience is that the pandemic has not significantly altered the need for orthopedic care. In fact, people have not taken care of themselves. This has exacerbated underlying orthopedic problems significantly. Athletes are back to full participation, also pushing orthopedic volumes. I am very bullish on the outlook for orthopedic care currently and in the years to come.

Jason Snibbe, MD. Snibbe Orthopedics (Los Angeles): The pandemic has changed my outlook on orthopedics. The pandemic gave me more time to analyze my practice and organize the patient process. It also allowed me to realize the issues with insurance reimbursement.

The insurance companies are becoming more difficult to deal with and impose more restrictions on the practice of orthopedics. I think the future of orthopedics will see more surgeons leaving insurance plans and charging the patients directly for better care. The reimbursement is not sustainable for private practice doctors. We have to take control of our future.

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