Total joint replacement surgeon choice: A qualitative analysis in a medicare population

J Natl Med Assoc. 2021 Aug 30;S0027-9684(21)00189-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2021.08.037. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Introduction: Previous research has shown that patients from historically marginalized groups in the United States tend to have poorer outcomes after joint replacement surgery and that they are less likely to receive joint replacement surgery at high-volume hospitals. However, little is known regarding how this group of patients chooses their joint replacement surgeon. The purpose of this study was to understand the factors influencing the choice of joint replacement surgeon amongst a diverse group of patients.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with Medicare patients who underwent a hip or knee replacement within the last 24 months (N = 38) at an academic and community hospital. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed and verified for accuracy. Transcripts were reviewed using iterative content analysis to extract key themes related to how respondents chose their joint replacement surgeon.

Results and discussion: MD referral/recommendation appears to be the strongest factor influencing joint replacement surgeon choice. Other key considerations are hospital reputation and surgeon attributes-including operative experience, communication skills, and participation in shared decision-making. Gender/ethnicity of a surgeon, industry payments to surgeons, number of publications and cost did not play a large role in surgeon choice.

Conclusion and clinical relevance: The process of choosing a joint replacement surgeon is a complex decision-making process with several factors at play. Despite growing availability of information regarding surgeons, patients largely relied on referrals for choosing their joint replacement surgeon regardless of ethnicity. Referring physicians need to ensure that patients are able to access hospital and surgeon outcomes, operative volume, and industry-payment information to learn more about their orthopedic surgeons in order to make an informed choice.

Keywords: Arthroplasty; Decision-making; Hip arthroplasty; Knee arthroplasty; Referrals.