Over 250 ambulatory surgery centers in the U.S. offer outpatient total joint replacements. With costs for ASC joint replacements at 40% less than the cost of inpatient replacements, more and more ASCs have adopted the procedure in recent years.
However, a joint replacement is still a complex, major surgery with a lengthy recovery. As COVID-19 has changed how we interact with patients, how can you safely resume outpatient joint replacement surgery?
What has changed?
The coronavirus pandemic has created an entirely new set of protocols for how we interact with each other. From wearing masks to maintaining a six-foot distance when possible, the virus has significantly altered your patients’ healthcare experience. And the patients who are most likely to need a joint replacement—those who are 65 and older—are also in the group of those who have a higher risk of complication from COVID-19.
What can you do?
It’s always been true that there is a risk versus benefit analysis when deciding to operate on any patient. If you have joint replacement patients who also have significant underlying health conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or heart disease, the risk of surgery in the current climate may outweigh the benefit. Now more than ever, patients can significantly benefit from optimizing their health before surgery. Consistent exercise for heart health, a nutritious diet, and smoking cessation are all crucial steps to becoming a better surgical candidate.
For patients who can opt for joint replacements right now, consider how you can minimize post-surgical face-to-face interaction. A common rule of thumb right now is to utilize telehealth and technology communication as much as possible. Because joint replacements are complex procedures, post-op instructions and follow-up is not as simple as a quick text or email.
Sending your patients videos is a particularly helpful way to connect with and engage your older patients. Additionally, give your patients access to a health portal where they can submit questions directly to their caregiver. Use a communication software to send out robust post-op instruction reminders to your joint replacement patients. With some technology options, you can even send out personalized reminders based on the patient’s medical record.
Outpatient joint replacements, which bypass the need for an overnight stay in the hospital, are more appealing than ever before to many patients. While COVID-19 put a necessary pause on most outpatient procedures, many patients are eager to regain the functionality that a new joint will give them. With a little extra thought and effective use of technology, you can get back to performing outpatient joint replacements safely.
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