Medical economics has progressed to the point where musculoskeletal physicians and surgeons cannot ignore the financial implications of their decisions. Unfortunately, in most practice locations it is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the downstream costs to patients and insurers of our postsurgical orders for imaging, laboratory testing, and physical therapy (PT). In the April 18, 2018 issue of The Journal, Egol et al. present results from a well-designed and adequately powered randomized trial of outcomes after patients with minimally or nondisplaced radial head or neck fractures were referred either to outpatient PT or to a home exercise program focused on elbow motion.
At all follow-up time points (from 6 weeks to an average of 16.6 months), the authors found that patients receiving formal PT had DASH scores and time to clinical healing that were no better than the outcomes of those following the home exercise program. In fact, the study showed that after 6 weeks, patients following the home exercise program had a quicker improvement in DASH scores than those in the PT group.
The minor limitations with this study design (such as the potential for clinicians measuring elbow motion becoming aware of the treatment arm to which the patient was assigned) should not prevent us from implementing these findings immediately into practice. Each patient going to physical therapy in this scenario would have cost the healthcare system an estimated $800 to $2,400.
I wonder how many other pre- and postsurgical decisions that we routinely make would change if we had similar investigations into the value of ordering postoperative hemoglobin levels, surgical treatment of minimally displaced distal fibular fractures, routine postoperative radiographs for uncomplicated hand and wrist fractures, and PT after routine carpal tunnel release. These are just some of the reflexive decisions we make on a daily basis that probably have little to no value when it comes to patient outcomes. Whenever possible, we need to think about the downstream costs of such decisions and support the appropriate scientific evaluation of these commonly accepted, but possibly misguided, practices.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
According to the CDC, in 2013, the total national arthritis-related medical care costs and earnings losses among adults were $303.5 billion, or 1% of the 2013 US Gross Domestic Product.
One response to statistics like that is the notion of “value-based health care.” How far has the orthopaedic community moved from a volume/fee-for-service-based model to one in which patients achieve the best possible musculoskeletal outcomes, payers expend the fewest possible dollars, and providers throughout the episodes of care are fairly compensated for their skill and compassion?
On Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 8:00 pm EDT, the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) and The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery (JBJS) will host a complimentary one-hour webinar that will answer these thorny questions by discussing the cost drivers behind the problem, where arthritis management stands currently, and where the value-based care bandwagon is heading.
Kevin Shea, MD, an expert in developing clinical practice guidelines, will discuss the crucial differences between “irrational variation” and “rational, patient-centered variation.”
Antonia Chen, MD, director of arthroplasty research at Harvard Medical School, will demystify the many attempts to measure and improve the quality of joint replacement and will address quality and value in the nonoperative management of osteoarthritis.
Gregory Brown, MD, a Tacoma, Washington-based surgeon specializing in knee reconstruction, will peer into the future of health insurance, patient empowerment, and robust orthopaedic registries.
Moderated by Douglas Lundy, MD, orthopaedic trauma surgeon at Resurgens Orthopaedics, this webinar will include a 15-minute live Q&A session during which attendees can ask questions of the panelists.
Every month, JBJS publishes a Specialty Update—a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.
This month, Nitin Jain, MD, MSPH, a co-author of the November 15, 2017 Specialty Update on Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, summarized the most clinically compelling findings from among the nearly 50 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.
–Results from a retrospective review1 of patients with noncancer pain highlighted that the risks of long-acting opioids extend beyond overdose, and include increased risks of cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality.
–A randomized prospective trial2 comparing celecoxib, ibuprofen, and naproxen for treating arthritis pain found no significant difference in the hazard ratios for those medications as related to risk of cardiovascular events.
Cost & Quality
–An assessment of a value-improvement initiative3 that examined hip and knee arthroplasty and hip fracture outcomes in a large regional health-care system found reduced costs and improvements in quality of care from 2012 to 2016.
–A literature review4 of 7 studies determined that the long-term cognitive and neurogenerative effects of multiple concussions in patients ≤17 years of age remain inconclusive.
–A randomized trial5 found no difference between anesthetic-only and anesthetic-plus-steroid epidural injections in the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis.
–A prospective cohort study6 by the MOON Shoulder Group found that the strongest predictor of failure of nonoperative treatment for symptomatic atraumatic rotator cuff tears was lower patient expectations that such treatment would be successful. Pain level, duration of symptoms, and tear anatomy did not predict treatment failure.
- Ray WA, Chung CP, Murray KT, Hall K, Stein CM. Prescription of long-acting opioids and mortality in patients with chronic noncancer pain. JAMA. 2016 Jun 14;315(22):2415-23.
- Nissen SE, Yeomans ND, Solomon DH, Lüscher TF, Libby P, Husni ME,Graham DY, Borer JS, Wisniewski LM, Wolski KE, Wang Q, Menon V,Ruschitzka F, Gaffney M, Beckerman B, Berger MF, Bao W, Lincoff AM; PRECISION Trial Investigators. Cardiovascular safety of celecoxib, naproxen, or ibuprofen for arthritis. N Engl J Med. 2016 Dec 29;375(26):2519-29. Epub 2016 Nov 13.
- Lee VS, Kawamoto K, Hess R, Park C, Young J, Hunter C, Johnson S,Gulbransen S, Pelt CE, Horton DJ, Graves KK, Greene TH, Anzai Y, Pendleton RC. Implementation of a value-driven outcomes program to identify high variability in clinical costs and outcomes and association with reduced cost and improved quality. JAMA. 2016 Sep 13;316(10):1061-72.
- Yumul JN, McKinlay A. Do multiple concussions lead to cumulative cognitive deficits? A literature review. PM&R. 2016 Nov;8(11):1097-103. Epub 2016 May 18.
- Friedly JL, Comstock BA, Turner JA, Heagerty PJ, Deyo RA, Sullivan SD,Bauer Z, Bresnahan BW, Avins AL, Nedeljkovic SS, Nerenz DR, Standaert C,Kessler L, Akuthota V, Annaswamy T, Chen A, Diehn F, Firtch W, Gerges FJ,Gilligan C, Goldberg H, Kennedy DJ, Mandel S, Tyburski M, Sanders W, Sibell D, Smuck M, Wasan A, Won L, Jarvik JG. A randomized trial of epidural glucocorticoid injections for spinal stenosis. N Engl J Med. 2014 Jul 03;371(1):11-21.
- Dunn WR, Kuhn JE, Sanders R, An Q, Baumgarten KM, Bishop JY, Brophy RH,Carey JL, Harrell F, Holloway BG, Jones GL, Ma CB, Marx RG, McCarty EC,Poddar SK, Smith MV, Spencer EE, Vidal AF, Wolf BR, Wright RW; MOON Shoulder Group. 2013 Neer Award: predictors of failure of nonoperative treatment of chronic, symptomatic, full-thickness rotator cuff tears. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2016 Aug;25(8):1303-11.