Hospitals Eye Boomers' Joints

Millions of aging knees and hips mean growth for market leader Hospital for Special Surgery.

Crain's New York Business—April 1, 2012

A motorcycle accident landed 47-year-old Dr. Susan Welsch at a local hospital for three weeks with multiple injuries, including a smashed hip. Dr. Welsch, a veterinary surgeon, researched the surgical outcomes for hip replacements, infection rates and the types of implant used. The data led her straight to Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, where Dr. Friedrich Boettner performed a successful operation.

“They have experience with what types of implants work and don't work—and they know more about their benefits in a younger body that is going to be living another 40 years,” Dr. Welsch said.

These days, it's the baby boomers going under the knife. After a lifetime of weekends spent jogging, skiing or biking, they can't be stopped because of creaking joints that won't be quieted by popping anti-inflammatories.

Americans ages 45 to 64 had nearly 116,000 hip replacements in 2009, up 34,000 from five years earlier. The rise is even more dramatic for total knee replacements in the boomer age bracket—up by about 97,000 procedures between 2004 and 2009, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The market leader, Hospital for Special Surgery, performs more joint-replacement surgeries than any hospital on the planet. In 2010, HSS had a 12% market share in the New York region.

“That is a huge market for one hospital on the Upper East Side,” said Louis Shapiro, HSS' president and chief executive.

The 205-bed specialty hospital's “unique niche at the top,” he said, is built on a model of having “the right thing done by the person who knows the best way to do it.” HSS' growth strategy is “to do what we do better than anyone else.”

With demand rising by 6% to 7% annually, the strategy is working.

“It's not about bricks and mortar; it's about people, talents and skills,” he said. "What is of consequence is the work we do, the results we achieve, and patients voting with their feet to come to HSS from New York and around the world.”

Read the full story at crainsnewyork.com.

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