Elective hip and knee replacement procedure costs could be a significant source of potentially controllable healthcare spending, according to a Viewpoint article published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2014, approximately 505,000 hip replacements and 723,000 knee replacements were performed in the United States, representing a cost of more than $20 billion. And hip and knee replacements in the United States have increased substantially, according to the most recent data report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to a media release from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences.

“With the US currently spending nearly 18% of its gross domestic product on medical care, almost twice as much as other high-income countries, we need to look at every opportunity to reduce costs from services that may be over-utilized. Elective joint replacements could represent an area for significant savings,” said co-author Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, MA, MBA, Distinguished Professor at the Fielding School of Public Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and founder and co-director of the Center for Health Advancement.

In the Viewpoint letter, members of the Center for Health Advancement at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (FSPH), who authored the letter, share their recommendations for reducing costs associated with hip and knee replacements.

These recommendations include creating decisions aids to educate patients about alternatives and risks to help them possibly delay or avoid unnecessary procedures, and capping payments for hip and knee replacements in order to reduce variation.

Additional recommendations are providing hospitals and other purchasers with price information to help them to make cost-effective decisions, and encouraging orthopedic surgeons to perform hip and knee procedures in outpatient settings when appropriate.

“Avoiding inappropriate procedures and controlling device and surgical costs could possibly save the US medical care system many billions annually,” adds co-author Steven Teutsch, MD, MPH, adjunct professor at UCLA FSPH and collaborator with the Center for Health Advancement.

[Source(s): University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences, Newswise]