For 4.7 million Americans, a knee replacement is the answer to a common problem. Aging and injuries can cause joint pain, making daily activities — not to mention maintaining an active lifestyle — nearly impossible. Simply climbing the front steps or walking the dog can suddenly become incredibly painful undertakings.
With more and more consumers bearing some portion of the costs of this type of procedure, they want to know how much it is going to cost them. While most patients see positive outcomes after joint replacement surgery, these procedure can involve hundreds of medical device choices.
That’s why staff at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, part of Allina Health, sought opportunities to reduce costs to patients and simplify processes while maintaining high-quality care. To do this, the hospital took a closer look at a core element of the knee replacement process: the new knee joint itself.
Narrowing Choices, Improving Outcomes
Historically, physicians chose the artificial joint replacements they preferred to use for each patient, and the hospital managed a complex system of buying and stocking thousands of options.
“We were managing about 15,000 different part numbers, each with different charge codes,” said Ginny Borncamp, director of contracting and purchasing for Allina Health, supporting all its hospitals and clinics. “It was very inefficient from an operations standpoint. So there were many good reasons, beyond the costs of the artificial knees themselves, to reduce variation in the parts that surgeons were using.”
Borncamp and a team of advisory surgeons were determined to improve cost savings for the patient without sacrificing quality outcomes. They considered the cost and quality of thousands of products before electing to offer surgeons two manufacturers for each category of artificial joint.
“After establishing the new options, we had a three-month transition period so all the doctors could try the new products,” said Borncamp. “It went pretty smoothly. I think they felt we were careful in selecting a smaller number of high-quality implants that would support good outcomes for their patients. We worked through any concerns the doctors had, and they’ve truly made this project a success.
Reduced Cost with No Change to High Quality
Six months after the transition, Borncamp worked with quality analysts at Allina Health to review data and evaluate the results of the new joint replacements. They focused on common complications that might arise after joint replacement surgery, including dislocations and infections. The team was pleased to discover the new joints showed no change in quality.
“Those were the main complications you might attribute to a new implant,” said Borncamp. “And to see that reducing options to this narrower list had done nothing to reduce our high level of quality —that was very reassuring.”
Learn more about how Minnesota’s hospitals are working to keep their communities healthy while keeping health care costs low by watching this video.