Why private practice is worth it for 2 spine surgeons

Practice Management

Two spine surgeons shared with Becker's the reasons why they prefer private practice over hospital employment.

Peter McCunniff, MD. Pain Center of Arizona (Peoria): Over the past year I made a change from a hospital-employed to a private practice model that is closely partnered with interventional pain services. We're now utilizing the model that I believe in and although it's early on, I am very happy with our success and what the future holds. I learned so much from my early experience in the hospital-employed model that has given me the perspective and experience to cut out the inefficiencies and allow the most streamlined care for my patients while also providing me great balance both professionally and personally.

Despite significant efforts and extra time devoted to creating a spine program in the hospital employed set up, I found that there were still significant barriers to having a successful spine practice due to the disconnect between administration and those of us tasked with building a new spine program within a large healthcare system and also being productive spine surgeons throughout the process. Spine surgery is different from both general orthopedic surgery as well as general neurosurgery. The large healthcare systems are able to engulf practices with those broader scopes and apply basic templates that are easily adhered to within their established system with relative success, but there's more nuance involved in elective spinal surgery that those general orthopedic and neurosurgical clinic templates will set the spine surgeon up for failure. I think most surgeons would agree that there are so many inefficiencies within a large system that waste time and don't contribute to positive patient care or improve their work-life balance. I believe that, in time, our practice model can represent an option for spine surgeons to maintain their autonomy and be very successful when other surgical subspecialties are being forced into hospital-employed positions to remain viable."

Ryan Molli, DO. Whole Health Orthopedic Institute in Meadville, Pa.: I'm disappointed that the pendulum has swung so far toward hospital employment, and one of my main goals is to swing that back toward private practice and hopefully encourage young orthopedic surgeons that it is very possible to start private practices and thrive. It's all about partnerships and making sure that you're creating the ultimate patient experience. I truly believe if you put your patient's experiences and needs and desires first, the rewards will come. In my area, we're the last private practice in Northwest Pennsylvania, and the physicians that sold to the hospitals are now extremely dissatisfied and wishing and regretting those decisions. I would say don't make quick decisions based upon pressures from hospitals and institutions. Try to maintain your independence as much as possible, and reach out to those around you that have been able to successfully navigate the waters of private practice and maybe look to partner with them as well."

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