Healthcare entrepreneurs and innovators should take note of the research on total knee replacements. This work serves as a prototype for a particular type of challenge in healthcare today and reveals again how clinical care remains a very humbling field.
A summary of total knee replacement (TKR) in Kaiser Health News emphasizes how surgery can have three possible outcomes that we often forget: make things better; make things worse; or have no significant impact.
Key findings include:
“One-third of people who have had knees replaced continue to experience chronic pain”
“Up to 1 in 5 are dissatisfied with the results.”
In a 2017 study, “knee replacement has minimal effects on quality of life, especially in those who had mild arthritis.”
Previous research suggests that “One-third of patients who undergo knee replacement may not even be appropriate candidates for the operation”
Yet the number of TKR are growing rapidly and are heavily marketed by hospitals and surgical centers. For many, TKR is a life-changing positive experience. But for others they are no better off. This work reveals the challenge of knowing what exactly helps people; on what to spend precious resources; and how difficult it is to “prove” which individuals benefit from a specific intervention.
Entrepreneurs who understand these differences and can develop tools and techniques to surface these differences can help patients, providers, and policy makers and make a significant contribution to the healthcare system. There are many links here to other key research.