The “new normal” of healthcare, after the COVID pandemic

Discussing unprecedented times amidst the coronavirus pandemic and a new era of healthcare with Nick Deeter, Founder and CEO of WishBone Medical, Inc. 

See Undisputed Pioneer of Pediatric Orthopedics 

How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting orthopedics? 

While WishBone Medical fully expects a significant reduction in scheduled surgeries over the next few months, we’re confident that Q3 and Q4 will bring a surge of cases, new and postponed, once the virus is under control. Facilities everywhere will return to normal operations, but face a massive backlog of elective surgeries—they will quickly need to find a way to maximize OR time in order to catch up. 

Is COVID-19 shedding light on areas in orthopedics that need to be improved?  

Yes…specifically in sterility and operating room efficiency.  The longstanding, inefficient reusable case and tray model has burdened our healthcare systems for too long, even before this pandemic. 

Now, more than ever, preventing infection is essential. With backlogged surgeries and fewer unused hospital beds, hospitals will be even more diligent to prevent infection which results in secondary surgeries and extended hospital stays. The current methods of re-sterilization of reusable cases and trays can lead to infection due to a lack of adherence to sterilization procedures and due to “pitting” of metal instruments from multiple sterilization cycles.  

Secondly, because the COVID crisis is creating a backlog of orthopedic surgeries, operating room efficiency is paramount.  Surgeons don’t have the time to be waiting for a case and tray to be processed from the autoclav or searching through cases and trays for instruments or implants.  

Orthopedics is the last segment of healthcare to adopt and benefit from single-use products. The adversities of COVID-19, I believe, will only expedite the conversion to sterile, single use kits.   

Will this create any shifts in industry practice? 

I can see two major shifts occurring as a result of this virus…a shift to surgery centers and to a “rep-lite” model. 

First, as healthcare providers are trying to keep surgeries away from the highly contagious virus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the majority of orthopedic cases transfer over to surgery centers… upwards of 75%…to isolate healthy individuals away from a facility that treats COVID patients. 

Secondly, while sales reps provide technical support and delivery of products, it’s apparent that they will spend less time in the OR during surgery. There will be a shift to a “rep-lite” model.  A sales reps presence adds another potentially infectious source, more so for those interacting with multiple hospitals each day. Without a sales rep onsite, back-office staff may be required to monitor implant stock and usage for reorders, and determining which implants were used during surgery will be a greater challenge. However, procedure kits like WishBone Medical’s simplify inventory management with UDI compliant labels, directly applied to a patient’s chart. 

What is the impact on pediatric orthopedics, specifically?  

Society will always prioritize the well-being of our children. When they need treatment, we find a way to make it happen. As with adult trauma, pediatric patients require surgery within days of an accident, and timing is even more urgent for children, whose bodies and bones regenerate faster than adults’. As for deformity cases, there’s usually a small window for medical intervention; the earlier it’s performed, the better the outcome.  In short, I fully expect that hospitals and surgery centers will find a way to perform necessary pediatric orthopedic surgeries safely even during this crisis. 

How do you anticipate your business will be affected? 

As we’re all observing, hospital norms are fluctuating. Healthcare teams are thinking critically about patient safety and efficiency. They’re determining how to reduce exposure to the virus, mobilizing limited resources and staff to ensure all patients receive treatment, taking measures to minimize infection risks, etc. The silver lining, for us, is that the daunting issues hospitals are facing [in the orthopedic realm] can be mitigated with single-use, sterile packed procedure kits. WishBone systems do not require hours of reprocessing; everything needed for surgery comes in one kit, pristine and ready to use. Our complete kits allow surgeons to “stack” surgeries to overcome this year’s accumulation of cases. Not to mention, staff members will appreciate small, lightweight packaging [as opposed to 25+ lb. cases and trays] after tireless weeks of caring for their communities. They’re an ideal solution for all surgical settings—ASCs, especially. There has always been a critical need for single-use procedure kits. This pandemic just makes it exponentially clear.