May 10, 2021

Key Takeaways from AAHKS Night 1: How COVID-19 Changed Orthopedic Surgery

Last month, the American Academy of Hip and Knee Surgeons held the first night of their annual Spring meeting. The AAHKS Spring Meeting strives to provide actively practicing orthopedic surgeons with cutting-edge information and best practices to optimize overall quality of care and outcomes for patients with arthritis and degenerative orthopedic conditions. The first night of speakers centered around how COVID-19 forced providers to dramatically change the way they provide care. Insights were provided by Lowry Barnes, MD; Audrey K. Tsao, MD; Muyibat A. Adelani, MD; Jeffrey D. Angel, MD; and R. Michael Meneghini. Surgeons spoke about the changes they’ve made to their practices and discussed the question: how has the pandemic changed the future of joint replacement?

Audrey K. Tsao, MD from the Mid Atlantic Permanente Med Group (MAPMG) explained how, in her practice, telehealth was already being trialed before COVID brought state-mandated closures to ASCs and elective surgeries in hospitals. After that, however, virtual tools became a necessity. Her practice kept one provider in the office, while all other providers became home-based using telehealth. Any patients that weren’t urgent or a result of trauma were triaged to telehealth. This situation was not unique; when elective procedures were put on hold, surgeons and care teams across the country found themselves needing to take a much closer look at their patients' whole lives, in order to determine the greatest acuity and need for surgery.

One year later, after some aspects of healthcare have returned to their pre-pandemic ways, we are still seeing healthcare providers utilizing technology they rapidly adopted at the top of 2020. Many healthcare leaders believe the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth into mainstream practice by a decade.

That being said, we not only view technology in terms of how patients benefit from it but providers as well. Utilizing technology in primary care, as well as specialties like orthopedics, enables providers to deliver care from wherever they are, not just from within the four walls of a hospital or clinic.

In the year 2020, physician burnout numbers were at record highs, with long hours, overwhelming workload, and lack of support being among the top reasons for this increase. Through the utilization of digital tools in healthcare, providers can improve efficiency while simultaneously creating a better work-life balance for themselves. This is perhaps an unexpected, yet critical benefit of the changes we’ve seen this year; how we reimagine care delivery in the digital age.

As a result of the pandemic, many within the healthcare industry were quickly shifted into a virtual care delivery environment. Force has made these types of transitions much easier for our client partners, and COVID-19 has highlighted how crucial tech-enabled partnerships are to helping providers navigate an evolving healthcare landscape.