Mark Malone, MD, founded Austin, Texas-based Advanced Pain Care. A former back pain patient himself, Dr. Malone turned to a spinal stimulator to resolve pain that surgeries couldn't.
He spoke with Becker's Spine Review about how his practice approached the COVID-19 pandemic and his outlook on pain management.
Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.
Question: What has been your philosophy in founding and growing Advanced Pain Care?
Dr. Mark Malone: So starting 18 years ago, I left a busy anesthesiology practice to go into the pain management field because I saw a big need in the world of pain management. I was overseeing a lot of surgery, especially back surgery, that didn't have great results. A lot of patients were in chronic pain both before and after surgery, and we had a lot of repeat surgeries. I gathered from talking to patients and other doctors that there wasn't a lot of advanced pain management out there. So I did a fellowship with pain management and then opened my clinic to fill a need.
Q: How have you seen this practice grow over the last 18 years?
MM: [It's] growing pretty rapidly. A lot of new techniques have become available, especially in the last four to five years. That is fueling an explosion in the field.
Q: How has the pandemic affected your practice and how are you managing any obstacles?
MM: We're doing well. I was worried, of course back in February and March when all of this was taking place and coming down … but we are front-line workers. We didn't close down, not for a single day, and we've had a great experience. One thing I learned is that patients really do need us. We have very few cancellations. We didn't suffer any decreased volume, even though many of our patients had lost their jobs and some had lost their insurance. The demand was unchanged, in fact, gradually increasing through the pandemic over the last seven months.
We did close down the surgery centers for a six-week period, which was mandatory in the state of Texas … so that affected our practice, but we were confident that we would reopen soon. We didn't lay off any employees, and on May 5, we reopened, and our volume quickly caught up and surpassed the pre-COVID-19 volume.
Q: By how much did volume surpass compared to pre-COVID-19?
MM: Twenty percent.
Q: How did your experience there compare to other spine practices in the area?
MM: I can give one statistic that summarizes our COVID-19 experience. We have 360 employees across 11 clinics in central and northern Texas in the seven months since the COVID-19 crisis came out. We've only had seven or eight people test positive, and none of them became seriously ill. So this tells us that wearing a mask and washing your hands and keeping some social distance is effective.