Dr. Bedikian Talks New Orthopedic Technology

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Toree: Hi, I’m Toree McGee, and this is The Rapid Recovery Report, sponsored by ROMTech, the modern technology of rehabilitation.  So, we’ll be doing this podcast series.  We might be changing up the times, but for now, we’re doing the very last Thursday of every month at 4:00pm Pacific, 7:00pm Eastern, and we’re going to talk to different guests, surgeons, patients, insiders here at ROMTech to discuss wellness, health, and touch on ROMTech’s PortableConnect, which we’ll be doing today.  

Now, it’s been a minute since we’ve talked about the PortableConnect actually in our podcast, so let’s brush up here.  I think we’ve got a picture.  There we go.  That cute little babe right there is the PortableConnect.  So, it’s a high-tech recovery device that’s geared towards patients to get them moving and on the road to recovery faster after surgeries, injuries, and that sort of thing.  

You can learn more about ROMTech and the PortableConnect if you visit www.romtech.com.  And you can follow us on our social channels at the handles that are listed in our description below. 

Orthopedic Surgeon Sarkis Bedikian

So, today, we’ve got an exciting guest, Dr. Bedikian, who earned his doctorate in osteopathic medicine from Midwestern University, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he also completed an osteopathic residency and an orthopedic surgery internship.  Additionally, he’s completed an adult reconstruction fellowship at the University of Chicago.  

And Dr. Bedikian has published numerous orthopedic papers, received honors and awards, including recognition for medical leadership and induction into academic honor societies.  

He graduated summa cum laude from Wayne State University, and currently, Dr. Bedikian practices at MidAmerica Orthopeadics in Illinois.  And he believes in doing all that he can in the pursuit of returning his patients to a full and active lifestyle. 

Hey Dr. Bedikian.  Great to have you here today.  

Dr. Bedikian: Great.  Thanks for having me, Toree.

Toree: Yeah, absolutely.  We’re looking forward to it.  So, we talked to a lot of orthopedic surgeons on our show, and we’re always really curious to know what inspired you, essentially, to pursuit this career path.  So, what was it about orthopedics that first got you involved in wanting to perform surgery for those in need? 

Dr. Bedikian: So, I wasn’t always going to be an orthopedic surgeon when I grew up.  I knew I love medicine.  I as very mechanical when I was a kid and growing up.  But it wasn’t until my last year of medical school, when I did my orthopedic surgery residency.  

Deep down inside, I was destined to be an internal medicine doctor, but during my rotation, I was helping to fix fractures, doing joint replacements, doing different surgeries.  I’m like, wow, I really like this, and I don’t know why I’m going to go do internal medicine when this is kind of right up my alley.  

So, I did my rotation.  I was a little behind the curve, because everybody else knew what they wanted to do they year before, so I had to get started.  I picked up pretty quickly.  And it did take me an additional year to go through rotating internship, and get into orthopedics, but I got in.  I loved total joint replacements during my residency.  It was one of those fields that you get almost immediate satisfaction with the patients having a joint replacement, and so that’s why I did a fellowship in total joints.  

And then also, doing a total joint fellowship, you get all the fun infections and loosening, and all the disasters that we see, so again, being mechanical, that’s right up my alley.  So, I kind of feel it ended up working out pretty well for me.

Toree: Again, infection, that sounds like a lot of fun.  

Dr. Bedikian: Which we won’t get into in this podcast, because that’s a long long story to tell.  

New Orthopedic Technology

Toree: Oh, mercy.  All right, so getting away from that then.  We’re always really intrigued by new technologies in the world of orthopedics obviously.  We’re trying to bring new technology in ourselves.  And we actually notice that you perform surgeries using Conformis.  So, can you tell us what that is, and why you recommend it for your joint replacement patients.  

Dr. Bedikian: So, Conformis is a company that basically innovated the way you could have a customized joint replacement.  Meaning, they use the CT scan with their software to extrapolate the measurements of the bone, the kinematics of the joint, and be able to reestablish it in a way that it’s kind of like putting a model airplane together.  So, just as you would get the parts, follow the instruction, put the pieces together, and you get your end result, Conformis basically creates the implant, creates the instruments behind it, and makes the surgery a lot more predictable for the surgeon, allowing for little nuances just in case, because sometimes you get into the surgery, and it turns out to be a little bit different, but allows for that variability just in case.

And I found that patients that want the newer technology find and hear about Conformis.  I’ve had patients come to me because they heard about it, and they go to the physician locator, and find me, or patients who have had it tell their friends and family, you got to get a customized knee, it’s the only way to get a knee, because the other option is you get an off-the-shelf implant.  Meaning the companies have done their research, done a bunch of CAT scans, created the implants, had their different sizes.  And sometimes, you’re getting surgery, and we’re not all made the same way, so sometimes you can be in between.  Well, with Conformis, it’s as accurate as it can be, and it’s using the newer technology, because it’s guided by a CT scan.  

So, that’s what drew me to Conformis.  It’s basically form and function, and it fits perfectly.

Toree: Okay.  I mean, you’ve kind of touched on this in the difference, but why don’t we talk a little bit about like what a traditional joint replacement, like an off-the-shelf, I guess, would look like, and then how they’re wholly different, I suppose.  Like, I mean the process, does it take longer for a Conformis to kind of get ready, versus just an off-the-shelf?

Dr. Bedikian: Yeah, no.  So basically, an off-the-shelf would be, if I was a patient, within a few weeks, I could be ready, and the implant is already provided for me.  So, the manufacturer has the representative who brings the implant of all shapes and sizes.  And in surgery, we’re sizing it.  We’re basically looking, and I’m going to bring an example in here.  

So basically, here’s the knee.  This is already cut.  And in surgery, we would go and measure the size of the knee, and that would correspond to the implant that the manufacturer would have.  So, it’d be a size four, a size six, whatever. 

With Conformis, all we do is make the cuts, just the way the guides would do it, and then the implant would fit right on the front.  And as you see, it fits perfectly side to side.  And sometimes, you would have a little overhang, or it would look a little small.  

The other part is, as you’re cutting the bone, the implant that would be off-the-shelf would fit, but you would still have areas around where the bone would still bleed, so it wasn’t a perfect fit.  This makes it a perfect fit.

Toree: Okay, that’s clever.  I mean, I wonder then, patients, if they know about Conformis, do they ever go the other way, and decide to do traditional?

Dr. Bedikian: So, I haven’t had any of those patients do that.  Even in patients during the pandemic when they would have Conformis, and there would be delays like we experienced last year during the pandemic, they would still wait, because there is a time limit.  By the time the patient decides to have a Conformis knee, they need to have a CT scan.  And then it could take somewhere between four to six weeks from the moment that the company receives the CAT scan, inputs it into their software, create what it needs to create in terms of the implanting instruments, and then ship it to what hospital that it needs to get to.  So, there is a timeframe.  

And sometimes, patients are impatient.  They want to have their surgery done yesterday.  That’s so common.  I’m sure a lot of surgeons say, “Oh yeah, patients come in all the time, and they want to have the surgery yesterday.”  I had a patient today.  “I want to have the surgery today.  What are you doing later today?”  I said that’s a little too quick for me.

Toree: Yeah, fair enough.  I mean, we are in the age of right this second.  Sometimes, Amazon even delivers same day, so I guess they assume that you can do same-day surgery too.  

Dr. Bedikian: I still don’t know how Amazon does it.  I still don’t know.  I mean, it’s crazy.  My wife bought something, and next day, we got it delivered, and I’m like, how does that happen, because you can’t get that in healthcare.  

Toree: It blows my mind.  It blows my mind all the time.  So, I’m sure, I guess in either situation, joint replacement is going to be scary and stressful for a lot of people.  I mean, it’s a major surgery.  So, how is it that you approach your patients, and help them understand the benefits of joint replacement?  

Dr. Bedikian: Yeah, I think the most important thing with patients who are deciding about joint replacement surgery is knowledge and information.  They want to feel comfortable, and that’s the most important thing.  I have a number of patients that probably had seen me, gone through another doctor, and realized, you know what, I like the other person better, or I like you better.  And I’ve seen it myself.  I’ve had patients who go to my competitors.  They don’t have a nice experience.  Like for example, today, patient came in to see me because she was getting injections by another surgeon in their office, and they just didn’t feel comfortable, and they wanted a new physician.  

They want to connect.  If they can establish a connection, then that’s the person they want to be with, they want taking care of them, their loved ones, all their family members, whomever it may be.  So, I try to empower them by giving them all the information, even if it sounds scary like the word infection.  They have to know.  Everybody needs to know the good, the bad, and possibly the ugly.  

Now, fortunately, today, we don’t see the bad and the ugly as often as maybe 20, 30 years ago, because newer technologies, newer research have given us the ability to do surgery better, less risks of infection and blood clot, and things along those natures.  As we’re talking about technology, that’s where healthcare in orthopedics is headed. 

In a separate conversation, we could be talking about robotics.  Nowadays, we’re seeing all this research on robotics.  So, I want to give everything.  I’m blunt and upfront with my patients.  They know everything.  If they don’t, they’re more than welcome to call me, and talk about it over the phone.

Toree: I like that.  See, I’m going to come to you then if I ever need a knee replacement surgery.

Dr. Bedikian: Good.  You heard it here first. 

Orthopedics Moving to Telehealth

Toree: Perfect.  So, when we did a little bit of research about you, we discovered that you have quite a passion for supporting advanced technology, obviously, and making orthopedic sciences more accessible for all, notably, since COVID propelled many people into the world of telehealth and connecting more through social media and other HIPAA compliant platforms.  So, how do you think orthopedics is taking advantage of this technology?

Dr. Bedikian: Well, I think with the telehealth, I think it was a little scary in the beginning, because I really never exposed to telehealth before.  And I think now, I mean I read opinion papers, articles talking about how now we can deliver care over the iPad, laptop, telephone, in any way, shape, of form virtually so we can connect with our patients.

I have a friend.  He’s in Georgia.  And basically, if patients can’t come to him, he has a whole day set up where he just does telehealth appointments, talking to them in every way, shape, or form, whatever they need, models, X-rays, whatever.  And I think that’s been the biggest change for orthopedic surgeons.  I mean, we’re surgeons.  We want to get our hands dirty every time.  This allows us to expand our coverage and connect with patients so well, even if there’s a problem.

I like it now where if a patient calls and says, “Oh, there’s a problem with my dressing, or my leg is swollen,” we don’t need them to get up and come to the office anymore.  We can connect.  We can connect in any way, shape, or form.  And with ROMTech, it’s even great, because if there’s a problem with the patient, and they report their pain level high, I get a notification.  I click on it.  I can reach out to that patient.  I could say, “Hey Mrs. Smith, what’s going on, what happened,” and talk her down off the ledge.  Talk her through what’s going on, and be able to say, “Hey, we’re okay, we’re going to get through this.”  And it gives them more reassurance that they’re not in this alone.  Even though they may have a loved one, they know their surgeon is readily available, and on their side, and is going to do whatever they need to be able to get to the edge.

Toree: Yeah, I mean it must be a huge change to be able to connect with patients in that way, like immediately via telehealth.  And it probably is a great peace of mind for them to just hear from somebody right away, and kind of be able to get it fixed without having to schlep out, especially if they’re hurting, to the office to kind of get care.  

Dr. Bedikian: Yeah, I mean especially if you think about a person who just had a knee replacement, to ask them to have their loved one get them in a car, drive I don’t know, 10, 15, 30 minutes over to the doctor’s office, sit in a waiting room, then be seen, oh, everything’s okay, and do that all over again.  I mean, as it stands now, emergency rooms are so overcrowded than before the pandemic, nobody wants to go to the emergency room.  This gives the surgeons and other physicians access to our patients, where before it would be so difficult.  Oh, just go to the emergency room.  No, you don’t have to go to the emergency room anymore.  We can have an easier way to see you.  Help take care of you.  Address your need without you ever having to leave your home.

Toree: Yeah, that’s incredible.  I love that.  I’m a homebody, so that’s right up my alley. 

Dr. Bedikian: So as my wife.  She’s at home right now working from home, so she loves being at home.  I mean, I don’t get it.  I got to be out, but I get it.  

Toree: She’s my kind of person maybe.  Maybe we’ll become like email pen-pals or something.  

Dr. Bedikian: Maybe write letters.

Dr. Bedikian’s Patients on the PortableConnect

Toree: Perfect.  Now, you talked about the PortableConnect a bit, so you recently started prescribing it as another way to help your patients access at-home physical therapy.  So, how many do you think you’ve prescribed so far, and what kind of results are you seeing with your patients?

Dr. Bedikian: Somewhere between 20 and 30.  Right now, I have five active patients on the PortableConnect.  And it was just last week, I had one of my newer knee replacement patients, only a couple weeks out from surgery, talking about how she loves it.  She’s a homebody just like you described.  She doesn’t like to go.  She didn’t want to go to outpatient therapy.  She’s been on her PortableConnect multiple times a day, loves it.  I mean, her eyes lit up when she was like, “Oh, Dr. Bedikian, I love this, why didn’t you have this when you did my other knee replacement?”  I said, “Well, it wasn’t available.  Now, it is.”  So, they’re ecstatic.  They love it.  They love the technology.  

And that’s the other thing.  A lot of patients that are somewhat mechanical in their mind, get it.  They understand.  They don’t look at it as a fear thing.  And they’re in tune with what they need to do to get better.  And it’s so super simple for them.  I mean there’s just no fiddle factor.  And if there ever is an issue, I know the representatives are close by, phone-call away to help those patients out in case there’s some major issue.

The Future of Orthopedics

Toree: That’s great.  I don’t want to keep you too long.  I just got one more question for you.  Maybe it’s a doozy.  So, with so many different advancements in new joint construction, robotic surgeries, and now physical therapy and recovery methods, what are your thoughts on the future of orthopedics over like the next five years?

Dr. Bedikian: So, it’s funny, because like your other question, I think the future is bright for orthopedics, because we’re trending towards where we’re going to get robotics into almost every aspect.  Nowadays, we have surgeons who are planning difficult traumatic injuries, spinal deformities using CAT scans and artificial intelligence intraoperatively to make sure it gets done right.  I’m not saying it wasn’t done right before, but the accuracy is going to be through the roof.  And that’s where healthcare in orthopedics is just driving into that next level.  And I see my colleagues, I see people on LinkedIn showing about what they’re doing with artificial intelligence. 

I mean, right now, for total joints, we’re at the robotics stage.  But at some point, they’re trying to figure out how to monitor joint replacements with artificial intelligence, so they can get that proper data.  So, it’s heading into that direction.  I mean, just like I’m on an iPhone 13, at some point, I’m going to be doing total joint replacements with artificial intelligence in the room saying, “Oh, Dr. Bedikian, I think if you do this, it might turn out a little bit better.”  But it’s cohesiveness, we’re learning.  

I mean, that’s the whole thing about medicine, we’re always learning.  We always learn to make things better.  And we know where we’ve been and where we’re going.  The future is just so bright, I can’t wait.

Toree: I love that.  Well, thank you so much for taking the time and chatting with us.  Ladies and gents, you can find Dr. Bedikian at MidAmerica Orthopedics in Illinois.  You can look up all of the information there at Midamericaortho.com.  You can follow our social medias.  You can find Dr. Bedikian on our website.  Be sure to check out our website, Romtech.com, and give us a subscribe here wherever you happen to be watching it, so that you can stay up to date on all of our newest podcast.

Thank you again, Dr. Bedikian, for taking the time and hanging out with us.  And we’ll see everybody here on another episode on Thursday at 4:00 at the end of the month.  

Dr. Bedikian: Thanks Toree.  Thanks for having me. 

Disclaimer: The content discussed on this program is often medical in nature, and is used for informational purposes only.  No content discussed should be taken as medical advice.  Please consult your healthcare professional for any medical questions. 

Privacy is also of the utmost importance to us.  All people, places, and scenarios mentioned have been changed to protect patient confidentiality, unless given explicit written permission to share.  

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