1. Patient/Practice Value Proposition
My first thought is echoed by many other doctors in the spine care industry. What we’re dealing with on the ground is how to continue to provide quality patient care in the face of declining reimbursements. The improvements we’re seeing in the minimally invasive operative theater, such as endoscopic spine surgery, may ease this issue as these advancements typically result in quicker recoveries, less postoperative pain, and shorter hospitalizations. For private practice outside of traditional hospital networks, physicians who can most nimbly navigate the ever-changing reimbursement landscape will be the ones who survive. There are also the looming changes to the tax code to consider, which may or may not bring additional relief.
2. Surgical Guidance Systems
Perhaps the most talked about prediction in the orthopedic technology sector is the burgeoning market of 3D image-guided spine surgery. Major device manufacturers have now brought a turnkey approach to patient care, beginning with a complete roadmap to a successful surgery outcome personalized to each patient. These 3D-guided systems combine software that logs personalized information on each patient while the hardware directs the actual procedure. The high-resolution scanning, imaging, and visualizations available to spine surgeons are quite impressive. Without a doubt, these systems are an investment, but the current and future business tax climate for adding infrastructure to our practices should keep the cost under plausible consideration. Robotic systems are also an intriguing adjunct to spine surgery, but the technology is fairly new, and their role in the surgical armamentarium remains to be determined.
3. Motion Sparing/Artificial Disks
The practice of spinal surgery is also moving away from fusion-based solutions and heading toward the direction of motion-sparing techniques. The implementation of artificial disks allowing a much wider range of motion for post-op outcomes is hitting the market with impressive specifications. Some artificial disks are quite advanced, utilizing components with traditional titanium designs with specialized coatings and advanced surfacing. Unique designs such as these allow for a smoother press-fit fixation and future bone ingrowth, keeping them more securely located. Surface technologies built into the wide array of available disks should play a very big role in this competitive marketplace.
In summation, 2018 should be another year of highly anticipated advances in orthopedic device technologies.
Dr. Jagannathan is a board-certified neurosurgeon specializing in cranial and spinal surgery with a key focus on utilizing the latest minimally invasive techniques. He is the owner of Jagannathan Neurosurgery, comprised of four locations serving southeast, central, and northern Michigan. He completed his neurosurgical training at the University of Virginia and Wayne State University, receiving advanced training in both neurosurgery and orthopedic spine surgery.