Currently, orthopedic complaints are among the top reasons patients pursue medical care in the U.S. Ranging surgical procedures like knee and hip arthroplasties to less severe conditions like muscle or joint pain, orthopedic specialists are in high demand. In fact, nearly 1 million knee and hip arthroplasties were performed in 2021 alone, according to procedure claims data from Definitive Healthcare.
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 active orthopedic surgeons have grown over the years and where to find the most surgeons in the U.S.
Number of orthopedic surgeons over the last six years
Fig 1 Data taken from Definitive Healthcare’s PhysicianView. Data accurate as of February 2022.
According to Definitive Healthcare’s PhysicianView, which tracks over 2 million physicians, there are nearly 23,000 active orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. About half of those surgeons report a sub-specialty with the 3 most common being sports medicine, hand surgery, and joint replacement. From the line graph, we can see a gradual increase in orthopedic surgeons over the last six years, with a marginal decline of 23,063 in 2020 to 22,965 in 2021.
Where are the most orthopedic surgeons located in the U.S.?
California ranks among the highest states in the U.S. with 2,406 active orthopedic surgeons. Interestingly, California leads the nation with about 800 more than Texas, which is ranked second with 1,621. Washington D.C. and Vermont have the least number of orthopedic surgeons in the U.S., with 58 and 54 respectively.
Can orthopedic surgeons keep up with demand?
Although the number of active orthopedic surgeons is on a slight decline this year, demand for these specialists hasn’t slowed down at all. Orthopedics is ranked number 11 in the top 16 most in-demand specialties, according to a 2021 report from physician staffing firm Merritt Hawkins.
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 the people who make orthopedics their specialty, studies show six out of 10 surgeons say they enjoy their career and would choose orthopedics if they had to pick again. Orthopedic surgeons also report that spending time with patients and building relationships are among the most rewarding aspects of their job.
How physician burnout affects orthopedic surgeons
Even though job satisfaction for orthopedics is relatively high, just under half of orthopedic surgeons report symptoms of burnout, such as dissatisfaction and loss of motivation.
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. This expectation of availability, combined with a shortage of specialists, could contribute to the high rate of burnout.
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 the 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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