Published 11/1/2015
Terry Stanton

AAHKS Going Strong at 25

As it marks its 25th anniversary, the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) is thriving, with a membership of more than 2,600 and growing. The organization offers an ever-expanding portfolio of programs, initiatives, and membership services. But like many a success story, its origins were humbler.

At the time of its founding, surgeons focusing on the knee and hip had two organizations to call their own: The Knee Society and The Hip Society. But these were exclusive organizations, with limited invitation-only admissions. The liaison between the two groups, Chitranjan S. Ranawat, MD, proposed the formation of an organization with a greater scope and a more inclusionary membership policy.

After a period of discussion and negotiation, the two groups gave their blessing to a new association that J. Phillip Nelson, MD, then president of the Hip Society, envisioned as "a larger, separate society with less stringent admission requirements so that any orthopaedic surgeon with appropriate experience and interest in hip and/or knee and/or reconstructive surgery of the lower extremity excluding foot and ankle could be admitted."

And so was born the Association for Arthritic Hip and Knee Society, with Dr. Nelson as inaugural president; it would take on its present-day name in 1993.

Early on, the fledgling society became an energetic advocate for promoting the rightful place of total joint arthroplasty in the healthcare system. Today it is a proactive voice for the interests of its members and their patients, with member volunteers participating in a variety of expert panels, advisory groups, and other assemblies. Volunteers also work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on issues such as measure development, risk adjustment, value-based payment, and outcomes reporting.

As the association's director, Michael J. Zarski, JD, notes, "On more than one occasion, we have arranged to visit CMS to make sure they understand that we share the goal of improving the delivery of efficient, high-quality patient care. We also want them to realize that we are uniquely qualified to contribute to the determination of how that is to be accomplished through the Medicare system."

In these and other efforts, AAHKS works as a reliable partner to the AAOS and the other orthopaedic societies. Visible, gleaming proof of this is the association's occupancy of offices in the new orthopaedic headquarters building, in which AAHKS is an equity partner.

As the Association looks back on 25 years of success, growth, and progress, an anniversary task force continues to formulate plans for saluting its past. AAHKS maintains its focus on the future and on continuing current initiatives while pursuing innovative new ones.

President Jay R. Lieberman, MD, describes the mindset of AAHKS as it marks its milestone year: "This occasion of our 25th Anniversary gives us the opportunity not only to reflect on how far we've come, but also to focus on our goals for the future. These include maintaining access to hip and knee replacements for our patients, advancing the science of arthroplasty, training the next generation of surgeons in the United States and abroad, and teaching other professionals involved in the care of the hip and knee.

"As for the major initiatives of AAHKS," Dr. Lieberman added, "we continue to adhere to our mission of advancing hip and knee patient care through education and advocacy."

Dr. Lieberman pointed to a recent state-of-the-association summary prepared by Mr. Zarski, which shows how AAHKS initiatives align with its mission. He provided the following examples:

  • Education and Research—The AAHKS annual meeting continues to be the premier educational event for surgeons who focus on the hip and the knee. AAHKS committed $160,000 to fund the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) collaborative research agenda that includes a grant program focused on surgical site infection. Future research support will be facilitated by the new Foundation for Arthroplasty Research and Education (FARE), created by AAHKS, which will take custody of the significant endowment fund now managed by the OREF.
  • Advocacy—In August, AAHKS hosted CMS and several representatives from other arthroplasty organizations for a Patient Reported Outcomes Summit. The group reached consensus on a patient outcome scoring system and made recommendations to the CMS in comments to the proposed rule for the new CMS payment model.

AAHKS membership continues to grow both within the United States and around the world. In 2014, the association surpassed the goals of both the Membership and International Committees by adding 287 new domestic members and 40 new international members, resulting in a 15 percent growth in a single year.

"For the first time, using data obtained from Medicare, we now know our pool of potential members," said Dr. Lieberman. "By approaching these surgeons with the facts about the benefits of belonging, we have added significantly to our ranks.

"The upward trajectory of our organization continues in 2015, when we celebrate the 25th annual meeting in November," he added. "We will use this opportunity to document for the public the impact we have had on the improvements in arthroplasty over the course of our existence."

Terry Stanton is a senior science writer for AAOS Now. He can be reached at tstanton@aaos.org