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How Many Orthopedic Surgeons are in the US?

December 17, 2018 BY Keegan Hellweg, Director of Sales

How Many Orthopedic Surgeons are in the US?

There are more than 30,500 orthopedic surgeons in the U.S., with about half of surgeons reporting a sub-specialty, according to our data on physicians. The most common sub-specialties include sports medicine, hand surgery, and joint replacement. 

Currently, orthopedic complaints are the top reason patients seek medical care in the U.S. -- ranging from bone fractures to carpal tunnel syndrome, spinal injuries to joint replacements. Joint arthroscopy and arthroplasty are among the most common procedures performed at hospitals and surgery centers, just behind treatment of bursitis. More than 413,000 knee and hip arthroplasties were reported in 2016 alone, according to our physician procedure data. The high demand for orthopedic specialists make this an ideal target market for medical device and pharmaceutical suppliers.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, total knee arthroplasty was removed from the CMS inpatient-only list, allowing outpatient surgery centers to receive federal reimbursements for performing those procedures. Critics voiced concern that this measure would negatively impact patient outcome, as there would be no period of observation to enforce bed rest and other post-op recommendations.

Another point of concern for inpatient centers is that joint replacements serve as a major source of income for hospitals, and the ability to perform the procedures in an outpatient setting could lead to a smaller revenue stream for inpatient facilities, leading some hospital leaders to consider surgery center partnerships or acquisitions. The total number of knee replacements rose over 300 percent since 2005, and is expected to increase to more than 200,000 procedures by 2030, making them a strong source of revenue. 

Can orthopedic surgeons keep up with demand? 

Despite this drastic increase in projected demand, orthopedics was only the 10th most in-demand specialty, according to figures from Merritt Hawkins. Those who do choose this specialty seem to enjoy their careers -- approximately 60 percent of practicing physicians say they would choose orthopedics if they had to pick again, though only about half would choose to practice medicine. Additionally, orthopedic surgeons report that patient relationships are the most rewarding aspect of their jobs according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. 

Even though job satisfaction for orthopedics is relatively high, just under half of orthopedic surgeons report symptoms of burnout, such as dissatisfaction and loss of motivation. Skeletal injuries, such as breaks and fractures, can be some of the most traumatic and urgent to treat, requiring orthopedists to be available at all hours. This expectation of availability, combined with a shortage of specialists, could contribute to the high rate of burnout. It could also be the case that, although orthopedists generally enjoy their particular line of work, they are dissatisfied with aspects of life in the medical field such as shifting reimbursement models and federal healthcare regulations. 

Programs like Value-Based Purchasing and HCAHPS Patient Satisfaction ratings directly impact how surgeons and other healthcare providers are reimbursed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This incentivizes surgeons to play an active role in hospital purchasing decisions, as medical and surgical supplies can influence patient outcomes and, therefore, physician payments. According to a 2017 Bain & Company survey, approximately 80 percent of surgeons participate in purchasing conversations, and rank "strong existing relationships" with a supplier as one of the most influential factors in selecting a manufacturer, making it imperative that surgeons trust their suppliers.

To learn more about Hospitals Performing the Highest Volume Comprehensive Joint Replacement Procedures, download our Definitive List.

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