Time Required for Planned and Unplanned Episodes of Care in Primary Total Joint Arthroplasty: Has Anything Changed With a Growth in Outpatient Arthroplasty?

J Arthroplasty. 2021 Apr;36(4):1195-1203. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2020.10.015. Epub 2020 Oct 17.


Background: This study sought to determine the total amount of time committed to planned and unplanned episodes of care related to primary, unilateral total joint arthroplasty (TJA), relative to a growth in outpatient TJA.

Methods: All primary, unilateral TJA procedures performed over a 7-year period by a single surgeon at a single institution were retrospectively reviewed. Time dedicated to planned work was calculated over each episode of care, from surgery scheduling to 90 days postoperatively. All telephone inquiries and readmissions involving the surgeon's direct input, over the episode of care, constituted time dedicated to unplanned work.

Results: Between 2012 and 2018, as the proportion of outpatient TJAs increased, the average planned episode-of-care time per patient decreased from 412 minutes to 361 minutes. Despite a 108% increase in the total number of outpatient TJAs between 2017 and 2018 (51/432 (11.8%) to 106/555 (19.1%); P = .002), neither the average number of unplanned telephone inquiries (4.6 ± 3.8 vs 4.2 ± 3.7; P = .124), nor the mean time per patient required to respond to calls (23.1 ± 19.4 vs 21.2 ± 18 minutes, P = .135) differed. Between 2017 and 2018, the average total episode-of-care time per patient decreased from 403 minutes (376 planned + 27 unplanned) to 387 minutes (361 planned + 26 unplanned).

Conclusion: Despite an increase in outpatient TJA, the average time required for planned and unplanned patient care remained relatively constant. The growth of outpatient TJA nationally should not trigger a change in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services benchmarks.

Keywords: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; outpatient arthroplasty; rapid recovery; relative value units; surgeon effort; surgeon reimbursement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip*
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee* / adverse effects
  • Episode of Care
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Outpatients
  • Patient Readmission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States