Knee surgery costs, complications lower at high-volume hospitals

The U.S. healthcare system could save billions of dollars a year if knee replacement surgeries were conducted primarily at high-volume medical centers, according to a study by the New York Hospital for Special Surgery.

For the purposes of its study, it defined high volume as a hospital that performed at least 236 knee replacement procedures per year.

The number of joint replacement surgeries have been surging in volume in the United States in recent decades, particularly as the population ages. That has prompted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to try to reduce significant variations in their cost by proposing bundled payments for such procedures. That initiative is expected to save the Medicare program as much as $343 million a year.

"We found that knee replacement surgery at higher-volume hospitals is less costly over a patient's lifetime and provides better outcomes, and if all knee replacements were performed at these hospitals, it could save between $15 and $23 million annually in New York State alone. With the number of procedures growing at a rapid rate nationwide, this could potentially translate into annual cost savings to society of up to $4 billion by 2030," said Jayme Burket, a Hospital for Special Surgery researcher and lead author of the study, in the announcement.

The study appears to validate prior research concluding that patients are at considerable risk if they undergo even fairly common procedures at hospitals that perform them at low volumes.

However, the Medicare Readmission Reduction Program has also enjoyed some success in cutting down complications related to joint replacement surgeries by financially penalizing hospitals if their patients wind up being readmitted within 30 days.

To learn more:
- read the New York Hospital of Special Surgery statement