Why Centers of Excellence are becoming more prominent in spine

Practice Management

More healthcare organizations are seeking partnerships with talented spine surgeons to become designated as a Center of Excellence, which takes an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to care.

Multidisciplinary spine centers can offer treatments that range from the conservative, such as pain management, physical therapy and nutritional care, to diagnostics, imaging, spine surgery and postoperative care.

Hospitals, in particular, are increasingly considering Centers of Excellence. If they don't refine spine care protocols, they may stand to lose even more access to patients as payers continue to push patients to facilities that perform more efficient care at lower costs.

But patients also want to have their care at Centers of Excellence, and they are becoming more sophisticated at researching and finding data on provider outcomes.

"Surgeons should set up a mechanism to collect their surgical outcomes and ultimately be able to publicly display that data," according to Alok Sharan, MD, of NJ Spine and Wellness in East Brunswick, N.J. "[Patients] having all their spine care providers under one roof, in a one-stop shop, will be desirable and convenient. Patients will realize that coordination of their care will be easier if all providers are under one roof."

Accreditation bodies such as the Joint Commission and DNV GL Healthcare offer certifications in spine surgery, and many commercial payers — such as Blue Cross Blue Shield — also designate spine programs that meet their criteria as Centers of Excellence, though benchmarks vary by insurer.

The benefits of achieving a Center of Excellence designation can include increased patient volumes, improved team cooperation, reduced complications, decreased costs and a considerable marketing advantage, which is critical in today's crowded and increasingly consumer-driven market.

For centers pursuing these certifications, tracking data and metrics including outcomes, readmission rates, length of stay and cost per case is critical. Internal standards such as tangible planning, implementation, monitoring and measurement are key to achieving success.

Hospitals may view Centers of Excellence as a strategy to maintain and attract more spine procedures that are rapidly migrating to the outpatient setting, but ASCs are also seeking Center of Excellence designations and direct-to-employer contracting. 

Earlier this year, Premier Spine Care in Overland Park, Kan., became the first dedicated ASC for spine care to join Carrum Health's growing Center of Excellence network, where bundled payments play a key role in the drive to reduce costs and improve access to care.

Payers will increasingly look to forge Center of Excellence relationships to provide quality, cost-effective solutions for spine care with fair contracted rates for patients, providers and payers, according to Robert Bray Jr., MD, of DISC Sports & Spine Center in Newport Beach, Calif.

"As these relationships develop, you will find great satisfaction working as a partner with payers to do what we do best: Deliver well thought-out, quality care," Dr. Bray said. "This is work that requires complete commitment to data-driven results and time spent to develop payer relationships. Find a champion that will lead this within your group and rally behind that effort."

Ultimately, spine Centers of Excellence champion a commitment to high-quality, efficient care, which is attractive to payers, physicians, and most important, patients.

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