Why orthopedic surgeons are worried about the supply chain


As supply chain pressures persist, all physician specialties, including orthopedics, may need to reevaluate their supply procurement strategies. 

Here is what six orthopedic surgeons have told Becker's about their supply chain worries: 

"Continued focus on providing value by improving quality, while simultaneously controlling the costs of care has been a 'trend' for the last several years that will be with us indefinitely. Increasing consumer and employer healthcare costs, declining reimbursement to providers, and hospital staff and supply chain shortages should prompt all of us to look at how we can provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care at the most cost effective site possible. This is a never ending process that ideally should result in elimination of waste and unnecessary care, improved quality and patient outcomes and improved healthcare value for our patients." — Matthew Kraay, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery and chair in orthopedic surgery at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland). 

"Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, value-based care was the main focus when discussing the future management of the orthopedic patient. In 2023, the economics of medicine has drastically changed. Hospitals functioning at a deficit, supply chain struggles and the increasing costs of care are plaguing our system. These challenges have forced value-based care to become sidelined, and constricted the available healthcare dollar for the physician. It will be necessary to place quality and cost at the forefront again. Today, surgeons need to focus on improving health-related quality of life measures, which were tracked prior to the epidemic. New baselines for the cost-per-quality-adjusted life year may need to be determined. These current economic plagues will demand a value-based care approach in the future. Today, surgeons would benefit by creating low-cost, high-quality care algorithms to position themselves for a successful future." — Daniel Mulconrey, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedic Center (Peoria, Ill.). 

"Spine surgery ranks as one of the costliest interventions in our healthcare economy. I believe that value-based healthcare models that tie reimbursement to outcomes will become more prevalent in the future. Suppliers that recommend more costly products or services such as artificial intelligence, endoscopic surgery, computer-assisted surgery/robotic surgery or custom implants will need to truly demonstrate value and assume some of the risks associated with an undesirable outcome. I believe that this healthcare model will lead to a healthier society while reducing overall healthcare spending." — Ernest Braxton, MD, chief of neurosurgery at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery and team physician for the U.S. Ski Team (Frisco, Colo.). 

"Independent ASCs, the panacea for MDs to control all aspects of their surgery, from design of the facility, scheduling, day-to-day operations, billing and supplementing their income — the true pride of ownership, and independence from hospital bureaucracy that motivated most MDs — is fast slipping away as the downward pressure on reimbursements in the face of rising cost, supply chain issues, staff shortages, etc., force MDs to seek partnerships with private equity and health systems that have access to higher reimbursements at hospital outpatient department rates and in general have the heft to negotiate better reimbursement from insurers. The days of independent ASCs are numbered, and that is tragic as independent ASCs are the right answer to the current healthcare woes on so many levels." — Jayesh Dayal, MD, pain management specialist at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center (Rockville, Md.). 

"I am most nervous about the continued pressure on our margins as supply and labor costs continue to rise rapidly." — Vishal Mehta, MD, president and managing partner of Fox Valley Orthopedics (Geneva, Ill.). 

"On a day to day basis, labor and supply chain issues are at the forefront of making us nervous. Since healthcare can be unpredictable, both are kind of in the back of the mind as to whether we will have what we need when we need it." — Mihir Patel, MD, treasurer and partner of OrthoIndy/OrthoIndy Hospital (Indianapolis).

"Current struggles with supply chain demand create havoc on our ability to provide care. Maintaining adequate staff and developing a positive culture in the workplace is challenging during these difficult times in healthcare." — Dr. Mulconrey. 

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