Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like the healthcare industry has gone through countless iterations of itself to keep patients safe while ensuring care remains accessible and effective. Orthopedic surgery has not been immune to this transformation, thanks to accelerated technological advancements in everything from telemedicine to orthopedic devices.
As the orthopedic industry continues to rapidly evolve, surgeons must keep up with emerging trends so they can integrate them into their practices and make research-backed changes that optimize their practices and help them stand out from their competitors.
Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs)
An ambulatory surgery center, or ASC, is an outpatient healthcare facility that provides same-day surgical care. Because they’re typically more efficient than hospital outpatient departments, ASCs have grown in popularity in recent years, with a 47% increase in the monthly average volume of claims at ASCs between 2020 and 2021. By the mid-2020s, 68% of orthopedic surgeries are predicted to take place in ASCs.
Orthopedic surgery in an ASC setting has many benefits for both patients and surgeons. Patients can avoid hospital-acquired infections when staying in an ASC during postoperative recovery. A study of over 1 million surgeries performed in ASCs found that ASCs have a “post-operative surgical site infection rate six times lower than hospital outpatient surgery departments.” Operating at an ASC also involves less bureaucracy, so orthopedic surgeons have more freedom to decide their own surgery schedules.
When orthopedic surgeons operate in specialized ASCs, they further hone their skills and perform more efficient, predictable surgeries. Think of an ASC that focuses on knee and hip replacement instead of offering a broader range of orthopedic procedures. With a smaller subset of procedures, you can invest in specialized training and equipment that will improve the efficiency and results of your operations.
Moving procedures from a hospital to an ASC won’t guarantee your success. If you’re considering partnering with an ASC or even starting your own, follow these best practices:
- Select patients carefully: Not every patient is fit for surgery in an ASC. Some patients need to be in the hospital due to age or comorbidities. Make sure to get medical clearance from a patient’s other specialists, like their cardiologist or pulmonologist, who might recommend an inpatient procedure instead for closer monitoring.
- Offer virtual care options: To further reduce patients’ length of stay, provide telehealth alternatives for common pre and postoperative services like patient education and physical therapy.
- Go beyond the minimum design requirements: Although ASCs are renowned for their “lean” operations, a cost-effective design doesn’t always save you money in the long run. For example, you’re required to have at least one recovery bay per operating room, so you might be tempted to stick to the bare minimum to cut costs. But if all the recovery rooms are occupied, you’ll end up having to delay surgical procedures, reducing your day-to-day revenue and frustrating patients.
Robotics in orthopedic surgery
Robots in the operating room sound like a futuristic scenario, but robotics-assisted surgery has existed for years — and it’s growing fast. By 2028, the global orthopedic robotics market is expected to be worth over $2 billion, almost tripling in value from 2022. Although robots still require supervision by an orthopedic surgeon, they can perform many tasks in the operating room, such as:
- Cutting and reshaping bone
- Positioning implants
- Guiding surgeons in positioning instruments
- Modeling joints in 3D
A robotic arm is much more precise than the human eye, enabling more accurate positioning to decrease soft tissue damage and deliver better stability and range of motion for the patient. The surgeon allows the robotic arm to control the bone cuts and remove just enough bone with an accuracy of 0.5 millimeters.
Gone are the days of taking X-ray after X-ray in the middle of a procedure to verify surgical accuracy. Instead, you can use surgical robots, which are much more precise, to determine the right placement for an orthopedic implant. When you accurately place an implant the first time, it’s less likely you’ll have to go back in later to reposition it.
Patients clearly recognize the benefits of robotics-assisted orthopedic surgery as well. A 2021 study found that 94% of patients were satisfied after robotic-assisted total knee replacement surgery, compared to 82% of patients who had undergone traditional total knee arthroplasty.
Robotics in orthopedic surgery has enormous potential, especially once robots can operate more independently, and we’re already seeing cutting-edge technology in the operating room today. The Mazor X Stealth from Medtronic is a robotic-assisted spinal surgical platform that uses robotic guidance system technology to improve orthopedic surgeons’ precision while operating. The robot sets up a trajectory based on the preoperative plan for the surgeon to follow when placing pedicle screws. This ensures that the screw goes in the right location at the correct angle and depth.
TrackX is a universal instrument tracking software that uses one to two low-dose scouting X-rays to provide virtual live fluoroscopy to track surgical instruments in real time. By using this tool instead of traditional X-rays, orthopedic surgeons can reduce radiation exposure for patients and the operating room team by over 91%.