Spine Surgery and COVID-19: The Influence of Practice Type on Preparedness, Response, and Economic Impact

Global Spine J. 2020 Aug 7;2192568220949183. doi: 10.1177/2192568220949183. Online ahead of print.


Study design: Cross-sectional observational cohort study.

Objective: To investigate preparation, response, and economic impact of COVID-19 on private, public, academic, and privademic spine surgeons.

Methods: AO Spine COVID-19 and Spine Surgeon Global Impact Survey includes domains on surgeon demographics, location of practice, type of practice, COVID-19 perceptions, institutional preparedness and response, personal and practice impact, and future perceptions. The survey was distributed by AO Spine via email to members (n = 3805). Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify differences between practice settings.

Results: A total of 902 surgeons completed the survey. In all, 45.4% of respondents worked in an academic setting, 22.9% in privademics, 16.1% in private practice, and 15.6% in public hospitals. Academic practice setting was independently associated with performing elective and emergent spine surgeries at the time of survey distribution. A majority of surgeons reported a >75% decrease in case volume. Private practice and privademic surgeons reported losing income at a higher rate compared with academic or public surgeons. Practice setting was associated with personal protective equipment availability and economic issues as a source of stress.

Conclusions: The current study indicates that practice setting affected both preparedness and response to COVID-19. Surgeons in private and privademic practices reported increased worry about the economic implications of the current crisis compared with surgeons in academic and public hospitals. COVID-19 decreased overall clinical productivity, revenue, and income. Government response to the current pandemic and preparation for future pandemics needs to be adaptable to surgeons in all practice settings.

Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus; global; impact; private practice; spine; surgeons.