8 orthopedics and ASCs trends in 2020

Orthopedic surgery centers experienced a slowdown during the early days of the pandemic as many states placed restrictions on elective surgeries. However, centers and physicians are recovering volume and relying on technology such as telehealth and data analytics to move them into the future.

During the Becker's Healthcare Orthopedics + ASC Virtual Event on Aug. 26 and 27, several experts shared the big trends and concepts for orthopedics, total joint replacements, sports medicine and ASCs in eight engaging sessions. Click here to access the sessions on demand.

Here are eight big observations from the event:

1. More consolidation in the ASC space is likely accelerated by the pandemic, but the consolidation won't necessarily be with health system or ASC chains. Many surgeons will want to remain independent from hospitals and decide to consolidate with other local and regional physician groups when possible. Some markets will also see an increase in hospital joint ventures and there is a huge opportunity for ASC chains that can add value.

2. ASCs and surgeon practices will need to invest in more sophisticated data analytics capabilities and platforms to keep up with patient expectations in the future. These capabilities will also allow them to control more of the episode of care and demonstrate value to payers for risk-based contracts.

3. The future is bright for orthopedics in ASCs as patients are still wary about going to the hospital for elective procedures. ASCs that have virtual check-ins, scheduling, postoperative home care and virtual physical therapy capabilities will be best positioned to thrive in the next two to three years.

4. The pandemic has shown that quite a lot can be achieved through telehealth. One key takeaway was just how important it is for patients to be able to do physical therapy on their own at home when elective surgeries stopped and many outpatient facilities closed earlier in the year. Providing resources and communicating with patients online as well as working with other physical therapy practices has been key in ensuring patients receive the appropriate care.

5. The pandemic has reduced telehealth hesitancy among orthopedic surgeons. For physicians that may have tried telehealth in the past but stopped due to perceived inefficiencies with the technology, COVID-19 has pushed them to get comfortable with the platforms. Many surgeons are likely to continue using the technology in some capacity once the pandemic subsides.

6. Changes to telehealth reimbursement rules helped fuel widespread adoption of the technology among orthopedic practices. How embedded this technology continues to be in orthopedic care largely depends on whether the rules around telehealth reimbursement remain flexible after the pandemic.

7. There are exciting new advances taking place in the orthobiologics or regenerative medicine space. Clinical trials are occurring involving advanced biological agents that could slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. We may even start seeing these being used in clinical practice within the next five years.

8. The best investment an orthopedic practice can make is in its clinical pathways and protocols. Driving variation out and standardizing protocols will help improve patient care. Process improvement should be valued as much as advanced technology.

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