The next big thing in orthopedics


New technologies come and go, but some are more impactful than others. 

Five orthopedic surgeons connected with Becker's to answer, "What technology is slated to be the 'next big thing' in orthopedics?"

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: How do you feel about non-healthcare entities dipping their toes into the healthcare space?

Please send responses to Riz Hatton at by 5 p.m. CDT Thursday, Oct. 19.

Note: These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Daniel George, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon with the Center for Bone and Joint Care (Putnam, Conn.): As orthopedic surgeons, we have all seen significant technology innovation over the course of our careers. Despite these innovations, it is interesting to recognize that the objective of our surgical treatment has largely remained the same. For spine surgeons, we are still focused on decompressing neural elements, implanting stable hardware accurately and accomplishing solid fusions. The ultimate goal of these techniques, of course, is great patient outcomes. That's one thing that will never change. In my opinion, the advancements in cellular, genetic, and even molecular level understanding have the most potential to transform not only orthopedics, but all fields of medicine. After all, it is what happens at these levels that dictates the body's response to everything from disease to surgery.

Mike Holmstrom, MD. President of Medical Staff at the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (Murray, Utah): Like in many other facets of life, artificial intelligence is going to become increasingly integrated into orthopedics in ways we can't currently imagine. Ultimately the goal is to improve value by improving outcomes, reducing costs and ideally both. AI is uniquely positioned to help enable this by gathering and analyzing data in ways that we can't do manually. 

Hafiz Kassam, MD. Shoulder and Elbow Reconstruction and Sports Medicine Specialist at Hoag Orthopedic Institute (Irvine, Calif.): Artificial intelligence holds tremendous potential as the "next big thing" in orthopedics, revolutionizing the field in several ways. Firstly, AI can streamline and enhance rapid access to care. With the ability to process vast amounts of patient data and medical literature, AI algorithms can assist primary care providers in prioritizing cases based on severity and recommending initial, nonoperative treatment plans. This can lead to quicker diagnoses and more efficient allocation of resources. 

Surgically, AI can leverage preoperative demographic data to predict surgical outcomes. By analyzing factors such as age, weight, medical history and imaging results, AI algorithms can provide surgeons with valuable insights into the potential risks and outcomes of a specific procedure. This predictive capability can help surgeons tailor their approach, optimize patient selection, and improve overall surgical decision-making. 

Finally, AI can enhance surgical technique and precision by integrating with robotics and augmented reality tools. By leveraging AI-powered image recognition and machine learning algorithms, AI enhanced robotic-assisted orthopedic devices can enable more accurate placement of implants and minimize human error. Augmented reality can overlay digital information onto the surgeon's field of view, providing visual guidance and enhancing surgical navigation. This combination of AI, robotics, and augmented reality has the potential to revolutionize orthopedic surgeries, improving outcomes, reducing complications and enhancing patient satisfaction.

Vishal Khatri, MD. Alliance Orthopedics (Bloomfield, Freehold, Fair Lawn, East Brunswick, Old Bridge and Randolph, N.J.): Technology, like robotics and augmented reality, is here and will continue to evolve over the next several years. However, the most significant technological advancement in orthopedics will be artificial intelligence. AI technology will transform the patient experience in all phases of care.

Artificial intelligence technology is going to help make diagnoses for patients. Patients will be able to speak with artificial intelligence software and explain their symptoms, and will be presented with a treatment plan based on this. The preoperative process in orthopedics can be cumbersome; however, it is also consistent and reproducible. This is the perfect platform for artificial intelligence.

This technology will be able to effectively communicate and supplement informed consent for surgical procedures. It can also help answer questions that patients have in terms of what to expect before, during and after surgical procedures. This will be an interactive system with thousands and thousands of programmed answers with real-time learning.

Moreover, this technology can be tied into research data and outcomes studies, thereby providing another even deeper level of informed consent for the patient. Artificial intelligence will also be implemented in orthopedic offices for patient scheduling, patient check-in, setting follow-up appointments, scheduling imaging appointments and other tasks that front desk staff are currently performing in orthopedic offices.

Alan Reznik, MD. Chief Medical Officer of Connecticut Orthopaedics (Hamden, Conn.): Orthopedics will see the emergence of several technologies going forward. Computer-guided surgery will continue to increase for alignment of implants; ultrasound devices connected to an iPad or smartphone in the office will become less expensive and more prevalent. They will be more useful for aiding in diagnosis and in directed injections. AI-driven notes and charting will hopefully decrease the workload that is ever increasing and destroying our productivity. 

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