How data can improve patient care in orthopedics

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Technology and data are two potential keys that could enhance patient care and access to joint replacements in orthopedics, says the president of one orthopedic organization.

James Huddleston III, MD, was appointed president of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons in February. He recently connected with Becker's to discuss his goals, the effect that data can have on orthopedics, as well as what he is excited and nervous about for the industry.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is your plan to improve patient care and access to hip and knee replacements as president of AAHKS?

Dr. James Huddleston: As president of AAHKS, my primary job is to assure that AAHKS' resources are deployed properly to promote excellence in hip and knee care. In addition to our usual efforts aimed at achieving our long-term strategic goals focused on education, research and advocacy, I will focus on educating our membership about unionization, exploring the establishment of centers of excellence for periprosthetic joint infection and securing adequate long-term funding to scale the American Joint Replacement Registry. We will also continue our efforts in conjunction with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to achieve long-term Medicare payment reform.

Q: Where do you see the biggest areas of growth for AAHKS in the next 12 months?

JH: We are always working to increase our membership and attendance at our annual meeting, targeting the Middle East, our allied health professionals and other healthcare stakeholders in these efforts.

Q: Tell me about your time as the chair of the California Joint Replacement Registry and efforts with the American Joint Replacement Registry. How do you see data transforming orthopedics?

JH: Longitudinal follow-up of our patients is mandatory to deliver the highest value care. Having been involved with local, regional and national registry efforts for nearly 20 years, I am pleased to report that we have reached an inflection point at the American Joint Replacement Registry.  While AJRR has approximately 40% of all the hip and knee replacements performed in the United States annually, we need to continue our efforts to get towards 100% coverage and improve data completeness. Like other successful national registries, we will need federal assistance to scale this effort. I am focused on synergizing our efforts with AAHKS and AAOS to make this dream become a reality.            

Q: What are you excited about and what makes you nervous?

JH: I am excited to say that I have the best job in the world. I am tremendously honored to serve as the 34th AAHKS president, where I have the pleasure of working with incredibly talented and passionate colleagues. I am very, very nervous about the future of healthcare in our country.  My father, a retired orthopedic surgeon, discouraged me from becoming a doctor due to his perceived decay of the industry. Despite him being spot-on, I obviously didn't listen. Now my children want to be doctors. Our younger colleagues are struggling to keep their lights on at the office. Despite the many obstacles we face, I am compelled to improve our healthcare system here in the United States. Declining physician reimbursement that doesn't even come close to keeping pace with inflation, loss of physician autonomy and market consolidation are just a few of the threats that are undermining physicians' ability to provide high-value care for our patients.

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