At the cutting edge of spine — Key thoughts from Dr. Kevin Foley on technology, big data and more

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |

Kevin Foley, MD, is the chairman of Semmes Murphey Clinic and director of complex spine surgery at Semmes Murphey in Memphis, Tenn.

His practice focuses on minimally invasive surgery, robotics and disc regeneration. He has written more than 35 book chapters and has 125-plus scientific journal publications. He has also invested in several medical devices and been issued 150 patents. Earlier this year, Dr. Foley received the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Cushing Award for Technical Excellence and Innovation in Neurosurgery.

Here, he shares key thoughts on the most exciting technology to watch and how the spine field is evolving.

Question: What emerging technology are you most interested in today and why?

Dr. Kevin Foley: I am interested in technologies that have the potential to improve upon various aspects of contemporary spine surgery, especially those that can add value by improving the quality of spine surgery at a competitive cost. For example, I am involved in the development of progenitor cells derived from human disc tissue to treat degenerative disc disease and postpone or avoid fusion, ultrasonic imaging combined with artificial intelligence-enhanced algorithms to detect critical neural structures and prevent damage to these structures, a bioresorbable, osteoconductive, wet-field mineral-organic bone adhesive to repair and enhance bony structures and improve spinal fixation in poor quality bone, an improved means of generating intraoperative three-dimensional images, and a cost-effective spinal robotic system.

Q: How do you think your practice will change in the next three years? What are you doing today to prepare?

KF: Over the next year or two, my practice will likely change incrementally. Already, for example, the majority of my spinal surgery cases are performed minimally invasively and over half are performed in our surgery center. This trend will continue and slowly increase. Beyond that near term, I expect to see more significant changes in reimbursement, continued pressures on providers to lower costs and risk-share, the adoption of the above and other new technologies, especially if they improve the value of care and/or address previously unmet clinical needs, and increasing involvement of physicians in managing the healthcare system. We are the key drivers of improved value.

We are doing several things at Semmes-Murphey Clinic to prepare for the future. We have entered into co-management agreements with the two largest regional healthcare systems, we are constructing a prospective bundle of our services to market to businesses, and we continue to emphasize and measure quality. In that regard, we have been major contributors to the Quality Outcomes Database and will be a vanguard site for the newly organized AANS-AAOS American Spine Registry.

Q: What is the most dangerous trend in healthcare, spine or orthopedics today and why?

KF: I believe the most dangerous trend in healthcare has been the tendency of too many physicians not to get involved in the management of the field. Delivering quality patient care can be time-consuming and exhausting, but we ignore the management of healthcare delivery at our peril and ultimately, to the detriment of our patients.

To participate in future Becker's thought leadership articles, contact Laura Dyrda at

More articles on spine surgery:
8 spine, neurosurgeons making the news
Dr. Gregory Lekovic: Emerging technology in spine and the reimbursement headwind to watch
Dr. Robert Brady: Robotics in spinal fusion and how the trend will develop in spine

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