Why Physicians Must Be Involved in Joint Replacement Strategies

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , September 29, 2011

A middle-aged tennis instructor swings her racket fluidly as she belts forehands and backhands. Her movements are robotic as she ambles from side to side, the result, she says, of surgery on each knee.

Another player moves stiffly at the end of a match. Before he leaves, he checks his taped knee. "It aches," he says, "and my doctor is talking about surgery, but I'm not so sure I want to do that."

Call it a Joint Commission -- and I don't mean the hospital rating agency. Players are retooling their aching joints, or thinking about it. Physicians could set up a courtside practice. Talk about net income!

The demand for replacement knees continues to boom, with Baby Boomers pushing the trend, with their aching knees, hips, and other joints. Some 50,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed each year in the U.S and are expected to increase 673% over the next decade, according to the American Academy of Orthopedics.

While middle-aged people are expected to be the largest number of patients, Generation Xers are having knee replacement surgery at an earlier age. Those with obesity, diabetes, or other ailments may also seek knee replacements.

"We are seeing a broadening of the age range of patients who are getting joint replacements," says Peggy Naas, MD, MBA, an orthopedic surgeon and vice president of physician strategies for VHA, and a panelist for the HealthLeaders Medi's Oct. 12 Webinar -- Raise Revenue, Cut Costs In Your Joint Replacement Service Line.  

"We have an increased expectation on the part of the public that things will get fixed. There is the 'boomer' expectation of being forever young."

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