Illinois Bone & Joint Institute's André Blom on physician leadership, risks in the field & the COVID-19 effect

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Effective leadership and a team mindset will continue to be crucial at orthopedic practices, particularly as the field continues to deal with COVID-19, according to André Blom, CEO of Des Plaines-based Illinois Bone and Joint Institute.

Mr. Blom spoke with Becker's on a number of topics in orthopedics, including staffing, risks in value-based care and the top challenges in the field.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: What do you see as the most pressing issue facing independent orthopedic practices?

Mr. André Blom: To be successful in today's orthopedic landscape, you need a multidimensional physician leadership structure that can navigate all or most aspects of an extremely active and vibrant sector of healthcare. Therefore, I believe that successful practices should be heavily invested in governance design and appropriate organizational support. Investment in current and future state leadership tracts, along with authentic commitments from physicians to actively and consistently participate in strategy and execution of practice initiatives, are essential if you want to retain ongoing success in the marketplace. As such, I believe that practices will be successful to the degree they are committed and invested in physician leadership strategies and structure.

Q: What are the top three healthcare trends you're following?

AB: 1. Staffing models will be significantly touched by the COVID effect for probably the next three years. We need to pay attention to the health and well-being of all of our team members. Collectively we are navigating both difficult and unknown waters with regard to the prolonged strain caused by COVID. And just like we didn't really know where things would end up when it started last February, we can't fully predict an end point at this stage. We will be well served by following the health and energy of our team members in the next couple of years.

2. The "value" buzzword will be replaced by "risk" in the next three to five years. This creates tremendous opportunities for orthopedic surgeons who effectively have a significant portion of control in the management of a multitude of business verticals tied to their practice. Thus, I follow any changes associated with value-based medicine very carefully.

3. Inflation is becoming a real issue. We will be carefully monitoring the ratio between income and expenses in all categories — especially variable elements that we have the ability to control better. Measured spending and tightening our belts will absolutely be an organizational focus in 2022.

Q: Where are the biggest opportunities for growth in orthopedics?

AB: The unsustainable cost of institutional healthcare presents the biggest opportunity for both sustainable market share and financial success for orthopedic surgeons. This comes with a bit of a risk management tolerance, but I don't believe orthopedic practices can afford not to focus on all aspects of care outside the four walls of a hospital.

Q: What skills are critical for healthcare leaders to thrive in today's environment?

AB: I believe the most important attribute is to understand with a strong sense of humility that success does not depend on the efforts of one person. It takes a team. Therefore, you must recognize and constantly study that fact, share in the wins and losses, support as needed and develop as much talent as close to the patient visit as possible. No one comes to IBJI to see the CEO — they come to receive care from our physicians and team members. That's where the energy should be. Whatever skills are needed for that — do so.

Q: What are your practice's goals for 2022?

AB: Over the past two years the organization has invested in strategic expansion of the practice as a whole and conversion of our EMR and practice management systems so that we may have a common platform for the regional needs of patients and payers alike. This was a specific objective of our physician board in 2018. As with all growth initiatives, you learn a lot about the organizational strengths and challenges when pressure is applied to a given situation — it has been an extremely valuable learning phase. Our physicians have been amazingly resilient and engaged in the design of their future while also respecting the legacies that have gotten us to this point. Our goals in 2022 are simple — to stabilize around all that we have invested in and to authentically get the most out of what collectively binds in the constant pursuit of excellence in patient care.

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