HealthMarch 06, 2020

New insights into the habits and work preferences of orthopedic surgeons

Learning about the habits, work settings, and information sources of orthopedic surgeons can help you better market your products or job opportunities to them.

You don’t have to be old to seek orthopedic care. People of all ages can experience some sort of joint pain and discomfort, including bursitis, ankle strain, or back pain. But with an aging population brimming with active baby boomers, the services of orthopedic specialists are increasingly in demand.

A survey by Merritt Hawkins showed orthopedics was the 13th most in-demand physician specialty. And what is even better for those seeking a career in orthopedics, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons finds that the majority of these physicians enjoy their careers. The mean satisfaction score on a scale of 1 to 10 among the surgeons pooled was close to 8.6 with 10 being the most satisfied.

What are their preferences and habits in the workplace? What keeps these specialists happy in their jobs? A survey by Kantar, a data insights and consulting company, offers insights useful for healthcare marketers promoting their devices and recruiters hiring and retaining orthopedic surgeons.

Patient interaction

When it comes to interacting with patients, a recent report by Kantar found that an increasing number of orthopedic surgeons are using digital tools. The use of patient portals among physicians is growing: 46% used them in 2019, compared to 45% in 2018 and 37% in 2017. Email was the next most popular channel for communicating with patients (27% in 2019) followed by social media (13% in 2019) and text messaging (12% in 2019). Only email shows a decline in use, which is not surprising considering the expedience of apps and texting.

Keeping up-to-date on industry news

Despite a penchant for digital patient interactions, orthopedic surgeons also consume industry news and information by both traditional and digital means. Surprisingly, tradition wins out. When a current issue of a medical journal (or other professional publication) is available, 97% of those polled in the Kantar survey choose the print edition, whereas 63% choose a digital option such as a PDF, e-magazine, or “Flip View,” a software useful for viewing a gallery of images. Thirty-two percent of surgeons reported going to the publication’s website, and 20% used an application.*

The Kantar Group survey asked surgeons how important they considered various sources of information for helping them stay well-informed. This table lists the most common sources and the percentage of respondents that cited them as being the most important:

 Information Source  % of Surgeons That Consider Them Important
 Audio /visual              26%
 Conference/symposium/e-conference on a new product or therapy 25%
 Online device or equipment information 25%
 Medical society websites 24%
 University newsletters 22%
 Medical webinars 22%
 Drug reference mobile apps 18% 
 Pharma/device mailings/newsletters 17% 
 Publisher newsletters/email 17% 
 University newsletters/email 16% 
 Diagnostic tools (mobile apps) 16% 

Source: Kantar Sources & Interactions 2019 Medical/Surgical Edition

Attending Industry Events

Not surprisingly, orthopedic surgeons take advantage of industry events and conferences and regularly attend to learn about new procedures, technologies, and products. Of those surgeons polled by Kantar, the average number of events attended by a surgeon per year was two.


Not all practices have embraced telemedicine, a disruptive technology that allows doctors to treat patients virtually. Telemedicine saves costs for providers, and patients are spared the time and inconvenience of an office visit—particularly advantageous for elderly patients or those with debilitating conditions. According to the American Health Association, 76% of U.S. hospitals offer a telemedicine option to patients, but the number is less for clinical practices. From the perspective of clinicians, in 2016, respondents to the Kantar survey considered that approximately 11% of their patients could be successfully treated with telemedicine; that number increased to 23% in 2019. The table below shows the evolving trends in the use telemedicine according to the most recent Kantar survey.

 Participation in Telemedicine 2016  2017 2018 2019

 The number of surgeons who had participated in  telemedicine.

16% 14%  12%   17%
 The number of surgeons who planned to participate in telemedicine in the next year. 10% 13%   19%  12%
 The number of surgeons not allowed to participate or who have no plans to participate in telemedicine in the next year. 74% 74%  69%  71% 

Source: Kantar Sources & Interactions 2019 Medical/Surgical Edition

Physician Recruitment

There are more than 30,500 orthopedic surgeons in the United States, according to data from Definitive Healthcare, a platform that tracks more than 1.7 million physicians. About 50% of those have a subspecialty, the most common of which are sports medicine, hand surgery, and joint replacement.

The majority of orthopedic surgeons operate private practices. This table shows where the talent lies:

 Practice Setting  %
 Private practice  35%
 Hospital center  17%
 Academic practice   15%
 Solo private practice   11%
 Multispecialty group private practice  9%
 Academic private practice  4%
 Military 2% 
 HMO 2% 
 Public institution  1%
 Locum tenens  1%
 Other 3% 

Source: Kantar Sources & Interactions 2019 Medical/Surgical Edition

To attract orthopedic surgeons, recruiters should emphasize the benefits of the specific setting where the surgeon will be based. A certain setting might provide access to digital platforms and tools that enhance the doctor-patient relationship, allow more time allocated to consultations, and boost optimal efficiency in treatment or the latest equipment, or access to industry experts and networks.

Each setting will have different characteristics, and each characteristic will have more meaning depending on the physician. Thus, it is always better to provide as much information as possible — including tours of facilities, introductions to existing physicians and support teams, even trial periods — to allow any and every opportunity for the surgeon to explore the culture. This ensures a good fit for everyone and the best service for patients.

*Source: Kantar Sources & Interactions 2019 Medical/Surgical Edition
Contact us to learn how you can reach orthopaedic surgeons.
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