Acute Orthopedic Surgery Programs Treat the “Ouch!” of Emergency Surgery Needs

Too often, patients with broken bones or other injuries that require the services of an orthopedic surgeon arrive at the ED only to discover these specialists aren’t available. The patient must wait for treatment, or sometimes be transferred to a facility out of their local area. The result is delayed treatment, inconvenience for both patients and families, a greater risk of complications and potentially a loss of revenue for the hospital when patients are transferred.

As a result of these challenges, orthopedic surgeons who function as acute orthopedic surgeons or orthopedic hospitalists are one of the latest trends in hospital medicine. Many surgeons find that being part of a comprehensive program that provides round-the-clock coverage and cares for patients is preferable to the demands of private practice and/or the inconvenience of taking a call at the hospital. Being part of a highly qualified team of surgeons and advanced practitioners, who are embedded in the hospital 24/7 to ensure continuity of care, means that surgeons can enjoy a manageable work schedule, a professionally exciting career, and competitive compensation.

For hospitals, the benefits are also compelling: the continuity and standardization that improves patient care and reduces complications, plus a team of highly qualified surgeons who are aligned with their goals to reduce unnecessary readmissions, achieve high patient satisfaction and reduce medical errors.

Pamela Mehta, MD, Surgical Affiliates Chief of Orthopedic Surgery, believes that “The goal for every patient should be access to high-quality surgical services no matter what time of day or night it’s needed. Applying acute care surgery standards to the orthopedic model can improve performance and resolve ongoing issues of reducing complications, improving outcomes, lowering costs, increasing efficiency and enhancing patient satisfaction.”

The acute orthopedic surgery program is a long-term, sustainable approach to meeting orthopedic surgery needs in a community and ensuring consistent coverage for patients needing both emergency and general orthopedic surgery. The program can be implemented as both a stand-alone and as a complement to acute care surgery and trauma programs.

What’s behind the growth of the acute orthopedic surgeon?

In short, it’s the same forces that are fueling the growth of acute care surgery or surgicalist specialty in general:

  • Increasing reluctance of surgeons to be on-call for emergency surgeries
  • The growing shortage of ED physicians and surgeons (including orthopedic surgeons)
  • Increasing ED patient loads and an uptick in ED cases among the newly insured
  • The failure of the old model of on-call surgeons and specialists to keep up with the demand of higher quality and efficiency metrics; instead the old system can result in delays in patients getting the treatment they need, difficulties in providing standardized care, and lead to complications as well as a lack of efficiency in hospital operations

What factors go into a successful program?

An acute care surgery program, including those with acute orthopedic surgeons, must be much more than having surgeons based in the hospital. The acute orthopedic surgery program must be built upon leadership from expert surgeons and executives, outstanding surgical teams that follow evidence-based guidelines in care delivery and collaboration with the hospital staff to consistently improve patient care and safety.

When this model is in place, patients, hospitals, and local orthopedic surgeons can reap the benefits of:

  • Better access for patients to this specialized care. Orthopedic surgeons are available any time of the day or night 24/7
  • Lower average length of stay for patients and as a result, lower treatment costs
  • Community orthopedic surgeons freed up from taking ED surgical calls or in-hospital consults, enabling them to increase the efficiency and volume of their private practice and elective surgery case loads
  • Orthopedic surgeons have an attractive alternative to the long hours and demands of a private practice
  • Increased market share and revenue for hospitals
  • Meeting the requirement for hospitals seeking higher level designation trauma centers, including Level I and Level II, to have trauma surgeons available that are trained in orthopedic surgery

Orthopedic surgeons who are interested in learning more, click here: Acute Orthopedic Surgery Programs. Hospitals interested in acute orthopedic surgery programs, click here: Surgical Hospitalist Programs.