FinancialHospitalsRecon

Pandemic hampers reopening of joint replacement gold mine

August 10, 2020 / Bernard J. Wolfson, Kaiser Health News

Dr. Ira Weintraub, a recently retired orthopedic surgeon who now works at a medical billing consultancy, saw a hip replacement bill for over $400,000 earlier this year.

“The patient stayed in the hospital 17 days, which is only 17 times normal. The bill got paid,” mused Weintraub, chief medical officer of Portland, Oregon-based WellRithms, which helps self-funded employers and workers’ compensation insurers make sense of large, complex medical bills and ensure they pay the fair amount.

Charges like that go a long way toward explaining why hospitals are eager to restore joint replacements to pre-COVID levels as quickly as possible — an eagerness tempered only by safety concerns amid a resurgence of the coronavirus in some regions of the country. Revenue losses at hospitals and outpatient surgery centers may have exceeded $5 billion from canceled knee and hip replacements alone during a roughly two-month hiatus on elective procedures earlier this year.

The cost of joint replacement surgery varies widely — though, on average, it is in the tens, not hundreds, of thousands of dollars. Still, given the high and rapidly growing volume, it’s easy to see why joint replacement operations have become a vital chunk of revenue at most U.S. hospitals.

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Chris J. Stewart

Chris currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Surgio Health as well as COO at Ortho Spine Partners. Chris has close to 20 years of healthcare management experience with an infinity to improve healthcare delivery through the development and implementation of innovative solutions that solve real problems that result in improved efficiencies, reduction of unnecessary financial & clinical variation, and help drive better patient outcomes. Previously, Chris was assistant vice president and business unit leader for HPG/HCA. He has presented at numerous healthcare forums on topics that include disruptive innovation, physician engagement, shifting reimbursement models, cost per clinical episode and the future of supply chain delivery.

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