Orthopedic surgeons specialize in injuries of the musculoskeletal system, which includes the bones, joints, ligaments, nerves, and tendons.
Are orthopedic surgeons in demand?
Currently, orthopedic complaints are among the top reasons patients pursue medical care in the U.S. From surgical procedures like knee and hip arthroplasties to less severe conditions like muscle or joint pain, orthopedic specialists are in high demand. In fact, over 1.4 million knee and hip arthroplasties were performed in 2022 alone, according to the Definitive Healthcare Atlas All-Payor Claims dataset.
The high demand for orthopedic specialists makes them an ideal target market for medical devices and pharmaceutical companies. To help guide your commercial strategy, we’ve tracked how the number of active orthopedic surgeons has changed over the last few years and where to find the most surgeons in the U.S.
How many orthopedic surgeons are in the U.S.?
According to the Definitive Healthcare PhysicianView product, which tracks more than 2.6 million physicians, there are more than 27,000 active orthopedic surgeons in the U.S.
Number of orthopedic surgeons in the U.S.
Fig 1 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare PhysicianView product. Data accessed August 2023.
From the line graph, which displays the number of orthopedic surgeons each year from 2020 to 2023, we can see the active number of orthopedic surgeons has only slightly changed each year. Since 2020, the total number of active orthopedic surgeons has fluctuated between approximately 27,600 and 28,800.
Where are most orthopedic surgeons located in the U.S.?
Fig 2 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare PhysicianView product. Data accessed August 2023.
California ranks among the highest states in the U.S. with 2,870 active orthopedic surgeons. This state has nearly a thousand more orthopedic surgeons than Texas, which ranks second with 1,924. Coming in close third is New York with 1,700 active orthopedic surgeons.
Can orthopedic surgeons keep up with demand?
Although the number of orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. has slightly declined from 2022 to 2023, it appears that orthopedic surgeon demand is on the rise. According to the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, orthopedics continues to be one of the most desirable and in-demand medical specialties. Becker’s Healthcare reports that orthopedic surgeons not only bring in a significant portion of hospitals’ revenue each year but are also some of the highest-paid physician specialists.
Continued demand for orthopedic surgeons further illustrates how patient aging is driving the need for medical specialties. With a growing population of older adults living longer lives, the demand for orthopedic surgeons and other specialized healthcare workers will continue to remain high.
For surgeons who have chosen orthopedics as their specialty, 97% report that they would choose their specialty again, indicating high career satisfaction in this field.
How does physician burnout affect orthopedic surgeons?
Even with such high career satisfaction, orthopedic surgeons are not immune to the provider burnout that comes from the demands of the American healthcare system. Burnout rates in orthopedic surgeons are reported to be between 30% and 40% and can be even higher around 50% for residents.
Skeletal injuries, such as breaks and fractures, can be some of the most traumatic and urgent to treat, requiring orthopedists to be available at all hours. The expectation of availability, coupled with the shortages of specialists, could contribute to the high burnout rates.
It could also be the case that, although orthopedists generally enjoy their line of work, they are dissatisfied with aspects of life in the medical field such as shifting reimbursement models and federal healthcare regulations.
Programs like value-based purchasing and HCAHPS Patient Satisfaction ratings directly impact how surgeons and other healthcare providers are reimbursed by CMS. This incentivizes surgeons to play an active role in hospital purchasing decisions – as medical and surgical supplies can influence patient outcomes, and, therefore, physician payments.
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