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Voice of Industry

Will Orthopaedics Become a Consumer-driven Market?

What entity in the healthcare chain will hold the most power five years from now: hospital, surgeon, Medicare, insurance companies? This question was posed to each of the speakers at the symposium. While there was some debate over when it will happen, the majority believe the consumer will, in fact, hold the power.

Members of the audience questioned how the consumer could wrestle the power away from insurance companies and hospitals. Won’t the number of choices still be controlled by a larger entity? Will enough Americans rally to mandate true change and create a more consumer-focused model?

Here’s how the speakers weighed in.

Dr. B. Sonny Bal: This may sound odd, but I believe that if not five, then in ten years, the power will be with the consumer. This whole paradigm will shift from the industry; surgeon knows best; there will be pricing transparency, if not today, then tomorrow. If we don’t do it in this country, then patients will go offshore to get healthcare.

Starting this month, our entire hospital system is allowing every patient digital access to his own hospital records. That used to be a no-no. Once, you could dictate things in the chart that weren’t politically correct, and you can’t do that anymore. I welcome that.

At some point, the patient is going to demand, what am I really paying for? This information has been hidden from consumers, and if you believe in open pricing models and freedom of information, which I do, I think the power will pass to the consumer for the better.

It’s an eye-opener as to how much control patients will have in their digital watch, in their sensors, in their EKGs, in their blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring. Some day, they will have a portable x-ray machine in their house. That changes the entire paradigm.

Rod K. Mayer: I share that sentiment. I’ve been told that I’m altruistic in that perspective. I know a gifted foot and ankle surgeon on the West Coast who has treated patients in all 50 states and has patients flying in to his own surgery center from around the world. He’s focused on four elective procedures in the forefoot. All of these patients are out of network, but he has positioned himself to address the desires of the consumer, which is the patient.


Doug W. Kohrs: I agree that it will be the consumer, but I don’t think it will be in five years. I think it will be in ten or 15, a little bit longer time period.

Dr. Bal said something similar. I think the evolution of power will move from the doctor or the surgeon, more to the hospital administrator, to the government and then to the patient, all with the emphasis on cost.


Dr. Selene G. Parekh: The government will hold the power, to be honest. Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, this change with EMRs. It’s a slow way down toward a universal health system. One payor, one EMR and the government will regulate everything. I’m not trying to talk about it in a surreptitious or malicious way, but I think that’s where we’re going, and it’s going to be a slow path down that road. Government will say, okay, if we control it all, then we can control cost.

If you look at other countries, that’s not always the case. The grass is always greener; the problem is that we’ve decided our grass isn’t green enough. So we’ve decided as a country, we want to start doing other things to rein in cost. And I agree with that, but you have to do it in a smart way.

Who do you think will hold the power?
Email Carolyn LaWell with your response or call 440.543.2101.