How spine practices are evolving to meet increasing consumerism

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As consumerism in healthcare continues to rise, so too will competition between practices. four spine surgeons discuss how their practices will evolve to meet patient needs in the post-pandemic market.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

Next week's question: What applications would fulfil predictions that robots truly are the future of spine surgery?

Please send responses to Alan Condon at acondon@beckershealthcare.com by 5 p.m. CDT Wednesday, June 23.

Note: The following responses were lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: How does your practice plan to stand out in the post-pandemic market?

Robert J. Bray Jr., MD. DISC Sports & Spine Center (Newport Beach, Calif.): Consumers are looking for quality and transparency. They wish to see documented results and fair, consistent pricing with no surprises. They also use your social media profile to evaluate how you are performing. To set DISC apart as we go forward, we are continuing to develop and build on the operational policies that have been our focus and delivering on that story.

We have moved most billing in-network with the providers and, taking a step forward, have been diligently implementing a global billing strategy. This assures that the patient — with one deductible or copay — is covered for all service providers at their event of care. It simplifies the process tremendously for patient and payer alike and is completely transparent as one upfront copay or deductible, after which the patient is no longer in the billing cycle.

We are implementing a quality assurance model that looks at the ASC and physician choice of procedure compared to patient-derived outcome and cost-efficiency. This information will guide the payer, the provider and the patient insight into quality markers.

In addition to operations, it is important to tell the story — real stories, not market claims or hype. How do you perform in the patient's eyes? What do you do for the community? How are you honestly trying to make a difference for the better? Good, old-fashioned integrity.

Brian Gantwerker, MD. The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: We have maintained our presence in the community simply by being. We have worked collaboratively to come up with safe practices, often exceeding community and CDC guidelines to keep our staff and patients safe, to allow us to stay open. We also do not use midlevel practitioners and assistants when it comes to clinical work. Patients have often worked their way through other practices with big names, affiliations, or shiny websites when they get a word-of-mouth referral to us. We feel that they deserve to interact with the physician directly.

Also, signing up with every single insurance and simply accepting what they pay you, knowing they still won't pay you even when you submit a properly-coded, clean claim is a race to the bottom. Instead, look at your surroundings, consider things like direct contracting with employers or companies with large workforces, and do very good work. Also, being accountable and available when things need attending to, especially in the postoperative period, will go a long way in terms of elevating your status in the community. One sure-fire way to not be the go-to person, is being cocky, unavailable and aloof.

Alok Sharan, MD. NJ Spine and Wellness (East Brunswick, N.J.): The basic elements of strategy are to develop a unique value proposition such that you can sustain a competitive advantage. This is a loaded statement that comes from my business school training. Practices will have to determine what makes themselves unique to their patients. How do they stand out? Do they offer longer or more convenient hours? Are they offering a unique procedure? Once the practice determines their uniqueness, they can develop their individual brand.

At NJ Spine and Wellness we pride ourselves on helping our patients get better faster. Our goal is to efficiently identify the problem and quickly get the patient into a treatment protocol that will help them get back to their usual performance levels. Since we have all types of spine providers under one roof (physical therapy, chiropractic, occupational therapy, pain management, spine surgery) this allows us to easily communicate treatment plans and ensure that we have an integrated plan for them.

Srdjan Mirkovic, MD. Northshore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute (Chicago and Skokie, Ill.): The specialized care model of the NorthShore Orthopedic and Spine Institute optimizes the hospital for inpatient procedures, allowing for efficiencies and the most individualized care, which means there’s no compromising on the patient experience. Also, many patients seem to feel more comfortable receiving care here because we never treated COVID patients during the pandemic. Surgeries along with rising nonoperative procedures such as injections, physical therapy and spinal cord stimulator placements enable us to have a good balance in treatment options for patients to consider.

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