As we approach the end of another year, it is common practice to take stock of the events of the recent past that have shaped our lives as we look forward to the future.
2020 was a year unequivocally defined by the emergence of COVID-19, widespread lockdowns, and tremendous fear of the unknown. Vaccines rapidly became available as we entered 2021, but controversy regarding mandates and issues of systemic inequities in healthcare and across society came to the forefront. For many of us, 2022 was something of a crossroads in our journey to a post-pandemic world.
Influenza and other respiratory viruses are looking to make a comeback after two years of being largely out of sight. Although COVID-19 admissions created fewer acute bed shortages in our hospitals throughout the year, manpower deficits, particularly in nursing and anesthesia, have worsened in some areas compared with 2021 or anytime previously. Burnout among those still providing care to patients is heightened by these shortages, as well as issues such as workplace violence, which was highlighted in the October issue of AAOS Now.
Given the lag in training new healthcare professionals, it is hard to see an easy path to return to full staffing or to solve problems such as increases in surgical wait times or surges in acute trauma patients. In addition, the patient population currently seeking care has never been more complex to treat. Much preventive health and primary care were deferred in the past three years as healthcare resources were stretched thin and patients feared contracting COVID-19 if they stepped into a hospital or clinic. Orthopaedic surgeons must now reconsider elective and emergency surgery on patients with poorly controlled chronic conditions and more advanced pathology.
COVID-19 may make fewer headlines these days, but it has certainly not gone away. Personally, 2022 began with a bout of the virus. Despite being fully vaccinated and boosted, I had a few days of very unpleasant symptoms and 10 days of lost productivity. Whether to consider the global pandemic over or in some post-pandemic new normal is debated among public health authorities. One can hope that any spike in cases in the upcoming year will be muted by the fact that the coronavirus is no longer “novel” and much greater community immunity exists. Telehealth has been a gamechanger for many in its ability to connect providers with patients in distant and rural locations. Some health systems have even begun trials of “hospital-at-home” care to allow family members to assist in care while decompressing hospital bed shortages.
At the same time, signs of renewal in our personal and professional connections have been evident in 2022. Travel has returned to almost pre-pandemic levels. I very much enjoyed catching up with many colleagues at the AAOS 2022 Annual Meeting in Chicago and look forward to the upcoming meeting in Las Vegas. The combination of in-person contact and the maturation of virtual options has made our ability to connect perhaps stronger than ever. As a membership organization, AAOS has an opportunity to use these advancements in its missions to provide education and advocacy for our profession.
Several other improvements in our communication are underway. In an effort to decrease the burden on your email inbox, Headline News Now will reduce its frequency. Instead of publishing three times per week, it will transition in January to a twice-weekly schedule and publish each Tuesday and Thursday. AAOS Now will publish 10 issues a year with combined issues in March/April and September/October. Those issues will be published online and mailed in April and October, respectively. During the off months, the AAOS Now team will publish online-only and online-first content so that members can continue to stay informed about AAOS happenings and other relevant orthopaedic news.
This transition will allow for an increased focus on expanding and improving the computer and mobile-based formats accessed by an increasing proportion of our membership.
I am excited about the many digital enhancements to bidirectional communication with our entire membership community. If you have not yet downloaded the new AAOS Membership App, I recommend you give it a try.
AAOS has a multitude of digital offerings to check out, including podcasts, social media channels, and a new resident educational curriculum. At AAOS Now, expect enhancements throughout 2023 in multimedia presentations of important topics affecting your practice, more opportunities to provide feedback, and more efficient ways to seek out the information most relevant to your practice.
As the year draws to a close, I must take a moment to offer my heartfelt thanks to our wonderful AAOS Now deputy editor, Julie Balch Samora, MD, PhD, MPH, FAAOS. She will be concluding her term on the editorial board, and I am confident she will continue to be a powerful voice for our profession and provide critical perspectives for our practices. Please join me in welcoming Alexandra Page, MD, FAAOS, as our new deputy editor. Dr. Page is a foot and ankle surgeon practicing in San Diego and brings a wealth of experience to this position. We look forward to upcoming editor’s messages and many other contributions from her in 2023.
Robert M. Orfaly, MD, MBA, FAAOS, is a professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Oregon Health and Science University. He is also the editor-in-chief of AAOS Now and chair of the AAOS Now Editorial Board.