Active seniors, advancing technology herald age of specialty hospitals | Crain's Connecticut

Active seniors, advancing technology herald age of specialty hospitals

The fifth floor of the new Stamford Hospital building will be home later this year to an orthopedic specialty hospital created in partnership with New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery. | Courtesy of Stamford Health

Connecticut’s aging population wants to remain active — and that mindset has already generated two orthopedic specialty hospitals in as many months this year.

First to the scene was Hartford HealthCare's Bone & Joint Institute, which opened its doors Jan. 9. Established in affiliation with Hartford Hospital and created on the Hartford Hospital campus, the $200 million institute was billed as “New England’s first and only dedicated orthopedic hospital” in the press release announcing its opening.

About a month later, HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health was unveiled, with plans to locate on the fifth floor of the new 305-bed Stamford Hospital building later this year. It will begin operations in Stamford Health’s Tully Health Center this month.

The Bone & Joint Institute is a stand-alone facility built on vacant land on Seymour Street in Hartford. It was four years in the making and its opening couldn’t be better suited to the times, its medical leader said.

“Baby boomers like me are falling apart at a surprising rate,” said Dr. Courtland Lewis, who is the Hartford Bone & Joint Institute’s physician and chief. “But we very much want to remain active. In my parents’ generation, if you were diagnosed with arthritis they handed you a cane and you were expected to slow down. That’s not what my generation wants. We’re not satisfied cutting back on activities.”

Stamford Health President and CEO Brian Grissler sees it in similar terms when discussing his organization’s venture with New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery, or HSS, which was ranked the nation’s No. 1 orthopedic hospital by U.S. News and World Report magazine for the past seven straight years.

“Connecticut is one of the healthiest states in the country, which also means our aging population is an active one,” Grissler said. “Thus there is a necessity for a broad spectrum of sports and orthopedic services.”

New hospitals take advantage of state demographics

Overall, Connecticut's population is getting smaller and progressively older. People age 65 and older made up 15.8 percent of the population in 2015, up from 14.2 percent five years earlier, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Nationwide, Connecticut’s population is the seventh oldest, according to Commissioner Elizabeth Ritter of the State Department on Aging. The desire to be active during one’s senior years is not particular to Connecticut, she noted, although the state’s older demographic creates greater opportunities for specialty hospitals offering services such as hip and knee replacements.

“Medical technology is the main driver,” Ritter said. “Procedures have become far more convenient and far less traumatic. People have always wanted to be active but it’s a completely different world now. Just in my lifetime, the change is stunning.”

Greater demand for maintaining activity longer brings with it greater demand for outpatient services, which means less time in hospitals and lower bills, Hartford and Stamford medical leaders say.

“We can save a significant amount across the board," promised Lewis.

HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health specifically looks to lessen the expense and hassle of going for medical treatments in New York City, Grissler said. The Stamford Hospital venture is the latest HSS foray into Stamford, which has had a Connecticut division since 2001. It plans to maintain its 20,000-square-foot HSS Outpatient Center at Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford as well as the neighboring HSS-Stamford Health Sports Rehab facility.

“There is a strong and growing demand for quality orthopedic care among Connecticut residents,” Grissler said. “By combining HSS orthopedic expertise and Stamford Health clinical leadership and focus on quality, patients will now be able to receive world-class orthopedic care closer to home. With an aging population and increasingly consumer-driven market, we anticipate increased demand for this collaboration.”

Future forecast involves more specialty hospitals

In the future, Connecticut and other states are likely to see the creation of more outpatient-heavy hospitals devoted solely to cardiac health, gastrointestinal problems, and eye care as well as orthopedics, Lewis said.

“This will develop in the areas where it makes the most sense,” he said. “There’s clearly a move toward focusing.”

Orthopedic doctors are likely to have a market wherever they are, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number and rate of total hip replacements aged 45 and over more than doubled in 2010 from the number 10 years earlier, climbing to 310,800 from 138,700. The rate grew to 257 hip replacements per 100,000 people from 142.2 in 2000.

Dovetailing with the trend that pushed the creation of the Hartford and Stamford orthopedic hospitals, the average hospital stay after total hip replacement for people age 45 and older fell to just under four days in 2010 from nearly five days 10 years earlier, according to CDC data from February 2015.

Joint replacements have become the No. 1 surgery performed on Medicare patients, Lewis said, and the number is expected to hit 1.2 million this year.

February 17, 2017 - 4:54pm